The Triumph of Surrealism, 1973 - by Max Ernst

The Triumph of Surrealism was painted by Max Ernst in 1937. Ernst created this painting for the Exposition international du surrealism which took place at the Galerie de Beaux-Arts in Paris. This painting is one of few in his career that were inspired from political events. Ernst painted The Triumph of Surrealism shortly after the defeat of the Spanish Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. In this conflict, Spanish fascist leaders were supported by Germany and Italy in their victory. Ernst's goal was to depict the chaos that he saw spreading over Europe and the ruin that fascism brings to countries.

Ernst uses the title of this painting to aid in evoking a sense of chaos and destruction. The use of the word angel confuses an observer at first due to the abstract and grotesque figure that is the painting's subject. He forces the viewers mind to think of these elements in a biblical sense. Ernst draws his audience to imagine the angel in the painting as if it were the angel of death from the seven plagues or a beast unleashed at the end of days. It appears that Ernst is even provoking his audience to question their own beliefs by calling such a figure an angel. This defies to how angels are traditionally portrayed as beautiful and majestic winged human figures in contrast to the monster that Ernst created. Max Ernst's title of this work was a direct ploy to intrigue and engage his audience.

This is one of the rare pictures by Max Ernst which refer directly to a political incident. He commented on this: "The Triumph of Surrealism is a picture I painted after the defeat of the Republicans in Spain. This is, of course, an ironical title for a kind of clumsy oaf which destroys everything that gets in the way. That was my impression in those days of the things that might happen in the world. And I was right." The Triumph of Surrealism is depicted as an avenging character from the Bible. Its destructive potential is stressed by its aggressive coloring. In the figure of the angel, blind traumatizing force is expressed, against which mankind is defenseless. Since there is no hope for negotiations with an inhuman force, the blind aggressor seems even more frightening.