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Fischer (Ernst O.E.) Collection of Max Ernst Prints
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • To request an item:

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ernst O. E. Fischer collection of Max Ernst prints
    Date (inclusive): 1912-1974
    Number: P900001
    Creator/Collector: Fischer, Ernst O. E.
    Physical Description: 164 Sheets (4 boxes, 30 flat file folders)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: A collection of prints by leading Dada and Surrealist artist, Max Ernst, assembled by Ernst O.E. Fischer and comprising 164 sheets. Approximately 66 additional pieces in bound books are now part of the Library's core collection. It constitutes a comprehensive selection of the artist's graphic oeuvre and includes a number of unique examples.
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    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Max Ernst, a leading Dada and Surrealist artist, was born in Brühl, Germany on April 2, 1891. He co-founded the Cologne branch of the Dada movement in 1919 with Johannes Baargeld ("Johnny Money" née Alfred Grünewald) and mounted the first Dada exhibition in Cologne that same year. His interest in technical and technological experimentation in all mediums is perhaps most evident in his graphic work. Ernst had little formal instruction in the arts, other than from his father, a self-taught amateur artist. Ernst chose instead to study philosophy and art history at the University of Bonn, beginning in 1910 until his enlistment in the army in August, 1914. In his graphic work, following a small series of linoleum cuts from 1912 and a recently discovered (1985) woodcut from 1917, he entirely abandoned traditional relief printing, the preferred medium of the Expressionists, in favor of intaglio and planographic methods. These methods enabled him to employ collage elements through the use of transfer and photographic technologies in combination with the more traditional techniques.
    Ernst's collages differed in several respects from those of the Cubists, whose aims were tied to a formalist aesthetic, as well as from the more politically charged work of Berlin Dada artists such as John Heartfield and Richard Huelsenbeck. Ernst sought to conceal the collage origins of his images by reproducing them photomechanically. He used black-and-white wood engravings reproduced in magazine and catalog illustrations, carefully trimming each image to produce a tightly integrated overall effect. This method emphasized the primary importance of the contradictory qualities of the juxtaposed images over formal considerations, in keeping with the basic tenets of Surrealism spelled out by its foremost apologist, Andre Breton.
    In 1941 Ernst arrived in the United States. In 1946 he married Dorothea Tanning in a double marriage ceremony with Juliet and Man Ray in Beverly Hills. He became a citizen of the U.S. in 1948. He returned permanently to live in Europe in 1953 and became a citizen of France in 1958. The overwhelming majority of Ernst's prints date to the last twenty-five years of his life, when he associated with a small number of master printers, primarily in Paris. He died there on April 1, 1976.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Ernst O. E. Fischer collection of Max Ernst prints, 1912-1974, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. P900001.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 1990.

    Processing History

    The processing and cataloguing of this collection was completed by Brian Parshall, June 1997. Books from the collection, many containing original prints by Ernst, were transferred to the Getty Research Institute Library. The dealer's inventory contains a complete list of the books and prints in the collection. One print listed on the dealer's inventory (item #229, "Geheimnis der Leibe" 1971) was not found when the collection was processed.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Max Ernst has been recognized as one of the most significant of the artists associated with the Dada and Surrealist movements of the first half of the 20th century. In his graphic work, Ernst continued the innovative approach that characterized his drawing and painting; his invention of frottage (literally "rubbing," from frotter, "to rub") in 1925 appeared in his printmaking as well. While Expressionist artists were reviving the woodcut for its aesthetic properties, the overwhelming majority of Ernst's prints were achieved by intaglio and planographic processes, often incorporating photographic methods.
    Separate sheets, frontispieces to books, and illustrations for books written by Ernst and others bring Ernst's total print production to over 500 works. The present collection, assembled by Ernst O. E. Fischer, is comprised of 164 separate sheets. The collection is therefore far from complete, but constitutes a comprehensive selection of the artist's graphic oeuvre and includes a number of unique examples. Approximately 66 additional examples exist in bound books acquired with the collection and transferred to the Library.

    Arrangement note

    Arranged chronologically in consecutively numbered folders.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Ernst, Max

    Subjects - Topics

    Assemblage (Art)

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Prints -- 20th century


    Ernst, Max
    Fischer, Ernst O. E.

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    See the Note on Cataloging (above) for references cited in the entries.
    Ernst's interest in technical experimentation presents a number of problems in cataloguing his graphic work, since he continually blurs the lines of separation between the graphic arts, drawing, and painting. These problems are perhaps best spelled out by Werner Spies in his essay, "On the Graphic Work," in Spies and Helmut R. Leppien, Max Ernst Oeuvre Katalog: Das Graphische Werk (Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg and the Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas, 1975) IX-X. The separation of individual prints from book plates has been problematic as well; that established by Spies/Leppien ("S/L") and Spies/Metken ("S/M") [Spies and Sigrid and Günther Metken, Max Ernst Oeuvre Katalog II: Werke 1906-1925 (1975); III: Werke 1925-1929 (1976); IV: Werke 1929-1938 (1979); V: Werke 1938-1953 (1979), (Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg and the Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas, 1975-79)] has been maintained here.