Max Ernst, "Une semaine de bonté" — the Original Collages

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Max ErnstThe Cockerel's Laughter 5© Photo Peter Ertl. © ADAGP, Paris 2009
Reaction to the Disasters of the Century

In Une semaine de bonté, the scenes and events that unfold before our eyes at the turn of each page form a striking contrast with the title. Power, violence, torture, murder and catastrophe are the dominant themes in these collages. The scenes of unrest and brutality that appear on many pages match the alarming political situation of the time and the rise of dangerous forces. Ernst was then reacting against the establishment of dictatorships in Europe, and the rise to power of the National Socialists.

To his contemporary preoccupations were added allegories, mythological allusions, Genesis, fairy tales and legends, as well as fragments of dreams and poetic worlds. The author's favourite themes also ran through the work: sexuality, anticlericalism, the rejection of the family and the wealthy middle classes, the rejection of patriotism, etc.


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Max ErnstFirst Visible Poem 4© Photo Peter Ertl. © ADAGP, Paris 2009
In the end it was a certain kind of society that Max Ernst seemed to want to denounce. His irreverent collages reflect the state of mind of his men who had returned from the First World War traumatised (he himself had served in the German Artillery) and who had had to take their place in a society that was doing everything it could to forget the horrors of the war. He took conventional, stereotypical images of evil, abjection and suffering, such as were found in newspapers, magazines and novels. By transforming them and combining them with each other, he radically changed the original message of these images and in doing so, increased their impact
Only at the end of this complex series do we come back to oniric, poetic motifs that can be understood as a hymn to liberty, dreams, fantasy and the voluptuousness of seeing.

But finally, in this visual novel, without words, we the spectators have to rely on our own interpretation. It is for us to reconstruct an event, to identify a story or to try to give meaning, until we can go no further.

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