Max Ernst. Napoleon in the Wilderness. 1941

Max Ernst

Napoleon in the Wilderness


Oil on canvas
18 1/4 x 15" (46.3 x 38.1 cm)
Purchase and exchange
Object number
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 2, in an Exhibitions Gallery, with 99 other works online.
Max Ernst has 234 works  online.
There are 2,378 paintings online.

Ernst began this painting in France but completed it in Santa Monica, California, soon after escaping war-torn Europe. For the base layer he used decalcomania, a semi-automatic technique in which paint is applied with a sheet of glass or paper to create unexpected textures. He subsequently inverted the composition and used the same process to manipulate the landscape and its strange inhabitants, which evoke a world of flux and decay. The finished painting, Ernst wrote, was “possibly an unconscious expression of my feelings at the time; for its central figure is not a triumphant Napoleon but a Napoleon in the wilderness on St. Helena in exile and defeat.”

Gallery label from Max Ernst: Beyond Painting, September 23, 2017-January 1, 2018

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
The artist
Peggy Guggenheim, Venice. Acquired from the artist.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired from Peggy Guggenheim by exchange, 1942

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