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Max Ernst
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© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Frederick Sommer
American, 1946
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.
86.XM.515

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This image of Surrealist painter Max Ernst posed against a weathered wooden wall has been overprinted with a negative of a rough, water-worn rock surface. As the two negatives merge together, the white-haired painter's flesh absorbs the rock's scaly "poetry of decay," hinting at Ernst's own advancing age and mortality. A dark horizontal beam cuts across the upper third of the photograph, slicing a recessed path across Ernst's eyes that gives the illusion of a mask. Rather than a straight likeness, this is a psychological portrait, though the viewer must contemplate whether it is an exploration of the subject or the photographer, Frederick Sommer. Ernst's work was influential in the development of Sommer's Surrealist imagery.