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.