Oil on canvas
Framed: 87.3 x 171.1 x 5.7 cm (34 3/8 x 67 3/8 x 2 1/4 in.); Unframed: 68 x 150 cm (26 3/4 x 59 1/16 in.)
© 1944 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2002.55
Scientific analysis of this painting shows that the black background was added last.
A frightening fish isn't the only strange thing about this scene; it's also painted in an unusual way. To create more abstract areas in the center of the painting, Ernst lifted paint from the surface using perhaps a cloth or sheet of paper, allowing abstract patterns to form in the process. Called decalcomania, this method blots paint in ways that resemble plants and minerals. Elsewhere in the work, smoothly painted fish scales seem almost traditional by comparison.
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