The Bride keeps her Clothes on after all these years

I found this writing I did a few years ago when I was in my Foundation years at Uni.

‘Art and the Subconscious’

“The French writer Andre Breton wrote his first Manifesto in 1924.  Its main objective being to ‘express verbally or by other means the actual functioning of thought – in the absense of any control exercised by reason’.  One of the first artists to be inspired by this and take it as a direction, was Max Ernst.  He had been impressed by Freud’s ‘Leonardo’ essay, where the artist commented on ‘the beauty of spots on the wall’, remarking that ‘if one looks carefully enough, you will make some wonderful discoveries’.  Ernst tried this by placing a piece of paper on his floorboards and rubbing a black pencil over it and thereby producing a ‘frottage’.  He was surprised and amazed by the sudden increase to his visionary faculties and by the contradictory and super imposed images that emerged…………..”

As you can imagine I couldn’t wait to try this out and made loads of these frottages, non of which have survived.  Max Ernst was a favorite artist of mine and one of my favorites paintings that I was actually lucky enough to see in the flesh (Surrealism – Desire Unbound) at the Tate in 2002.  It didn’t disappoint.  This is what I wrote about the painting  (before I knew any of the political implications) : –

ernst The robing of the Bride 1940




“One of my favorite paintings has always been ‘The Robing of the Bride’  (1940) by Max Ernst.  Looking at this painting always produces a sort of primitive response.  This image was on the first poster I ever bought for my first flat.  I never get bored with looking at this image, I find it intriguing, full of symbolism that I don’t fully understand, yet somehow feel familiar with.

This painting echoes something within me that I have nearly forgotten, yet know sense to be still there, though I am unable to quite bring it to the surface.  The effect this painting has on me today  is the same as the first time I saw it.  The secretive Owl like head dress: the small face wedged on top of the breasts: the dark deformed creature crying on the chessboard floor: the texture of the painting (I know now to be ‘Decalcomania’).  I find these images particularly intriguing.  A metamorphosis is going on that sustains my interest on a deeper level each and it happens every time I look at this painting.”



 One of the interpretations of this painting is the dangers involved in a marriage of the ‘French bride’  to the ‘German Barbarian’.  This is one of the given interpretations.  Ernst was politically conscious, but his oeuvre was the subconscious and the means of reaching it.  So perhaps this political statement was not his sole intention.  I would like to think that Ernst would not be too bothered whether his painting was appreciated as a political statement or whether it be enjoyed on a surreal level.  I am resolved not to resolve the enigma of this painting.

2 Responses to “The Bride keeps her Clothes on after all these years”

  1. Great article, very interesting read! Ernst is one of my fav. artist !

    chack my surreal paintings if you can spare some time!

    • Ernst is probably one of my favorite surrelists too! For his time he was so innovative and clever both in his approach and his techniques. I have actually see the Robing of the Bride – and I still loved everything about it:-)

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