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Seeing Through an (American) Temperament: Max Ernst’s Microbes, 1946-1953

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While he was living in Arizona between 1946 and 1951, Max Ernst created at least 70 tiny gouache paintings that he called “microbes.” They range in size from a half-inch

While he was living in Arizona between 1946 and 1951, Max Ernst created at least 70 tiny gouache paintings that he called “microbes.” They range in size from a half-inch on one side to over five inches, with most between one and three inches. Many evoke fantastical landscapes while others appear completely abstract. Ernst’s interest in this series of work was sustained: he made these paintings over a period of five years, and they were exhibited regularly during his own lifetime. Today, however, the microbes are virtually unknown. Because of their relative obscurity within Ernst’s oeuvre, this essay outlines their production and early exhibition and reception, with special attention to Sept microbes vus à travers un tempérament (Seven microbes seen through a temperament). This book, comprised of life-size reproductions of 31 microbes and a poem by Ernst, positions the microbes as a distinctly surrealist, subjective interpretation of the American Southwest. The essay then contextualizes the microbes within the wider contemporary American art world and suggests that Ernst made these diminutive paintings in dialogue with the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists as those artists were rising to prominence in the wake of World War II.

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  • 2019

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 11 No. 2 (2020)

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General Topics Issue No. 2

Cover Image: Kati Horna, S.NOB #1 cover, 1962, ink on paper. Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, Mexico City, Mexico

Published: 2021-04-19

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 11 No. 2

General Topics Issue No. 2

Cover Image: Kati Horna, S.NOB #1 cover, 1962, ink on paper. Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas, Mexico City, Mexico

Published: 2021-04-19

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 11 No. 2 (2020) - Table of Contents                  

"Agustín Cárdenas: Sculpting the 'Memory of the Future' by Susan L. Power, p. 98-119. 

"Bataillean Surrealism in Mexico: S.NOB Magazine (1962)" by David A.J. Murrieta Flores, p. 120-151.

"Mexican Carnival: Profanations in Luis Buñuel's Films Nazarín and Simón del desierto" by Lars Nowak, p. 152-177.

"Giorgio de Chirico, the First Surrealist in Mexico?" by Carlos Segoviano, p. 178-197?

"Exhibition Review: 'I Paint My Reality: Surrealism in Latin America' by Danielle M. Johnson, p. 198-204. 

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  • 2020

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Exhibition Review: 'I Paint My Reality: Surrealism in Latin America'

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Danielle M. Johnson has been Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Vero Beach Museum of Art since 2017. Previously she was Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Painting

Danielle M. Johnson has been Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Vero Beach Museum of Art since 2017. Previously she was Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where she worked on an exhibition on René Magritte. She has taught at New York University, the CUNY Graduate Center, and Hunter College. Johnson earned her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University with a dissertation entitled Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, 1928-1938 and her BA in Art History and French Language and Literature from Colgate University.

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  • 2020

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 10 No. 1 (2019)

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The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 10 No. 1 (2019) - Table of Contents

“Introduction to the Special Issue on Max Ernst” by Samantha Kavky, p. 1-6. 

“Napoleon in the

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 10 No. 1 (2019) - Table of Contents

“Introduction to the Special Issue on Max Ernst” by Samantha Kavky, p. 1-6. 

“Napoleon in the Wilderness: The Transmogrification of a Picture by Max Ernst” by Martin Schieder, p. 7-23.

“Seeing Through an (American) Temperament: Max Ernst’s Microbes, 1946-1953” by Danielle M. Johnson, p. 24-45. 

“Max Ernst and the Aesthetic of Commercial Tourism: Max Among Some of His Favorite Dolls” by Carolyn Butler Palmer, p, 46-68.

“Arizona Dream: Maxime Rossi Meets Max Ernst” by Julia Drost, p. 69-83.

“Glowing Like Phosphorus: Dorothea Tanning and the Sedona Western” by Catriona McAra, p. 84-105.

“Conference Review: ‘SURREALISMS: the Inaugural Conference of the International Society for the Study of Surrealism’” by Kristen Strange, p. 106-110. 

“Exhibition Review of ‘A Home for Surrealism: Fantastic Painting in Midcentury Chicago’” by Jennifer R. Cohen, p. 111-114.

“Exhibition Review: ‘Native American Art at Documenta 14 and the Issue of Democracy’” by Claudia Mesch, p. 115-120.   

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  • 2019