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MAX ERNST B I G B R O T H E R : T E A C H I N G S TA F F F O R A SCHOOL OF MURDERERS

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B I G B R O T H E R : T E A C H I N G S TA F F F O R A SCHOOL OF MURDERERS BY JÜRGEN PECH

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The group of three stone sculptures, Corps enseignant pour une école de tueurs was shown with the sculpture, La plus belle, for the first time in January 1968 at the Alexandre Iolas Gallery in Paris. A printed sheet inserted into the accompanying exhibition catalogue Le Néant et son double (The Nothing and his double) named each of the figures and listed a series of characteristics:

Figs. 2 and 3 (above and on following pp.): Cover and interior pages from the catalogue for La Néant et son double.

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The three-part ensemble was developed in 1967 in conjunction with the fountain figures for Amboise. (Fig.1) A photograph that shows the fountain in the conception phase verifies this. The central figure of the stone sculpture is shown here in its first version with a fissure for a mouth. This physiognomic detail was not adopted for the head of the group that was shown with its two assisting figures in the Galerie Iolas. Shortly thereafter, all three were erected at Max Ernst’s last residence in Seillans in the South of France where they guarded the ascent to the home, to the artist couple’s residence, designed by Dorothea Tanning (Fig. 5). Without a mouth, the expression of the head’s face is concentrated on the smooth, tapered surfaces that make up the eyes and ears. Big Brother has a flat cap on his head from under which the eyes — high up in the face and placed closely together — peer out inquisitively. Almost everyone knows the sentence, “Big Brother is watching you!” from the novel 1984 by George Orwell; for a long time the admonition has belonged to the public domain. Orwell wrote the book, published in 1949, in 1948. For the title, he interchanged the last two dates of the year of the book’s creation. The utopian content is conveyed pessimistically and describes the consequences of totalitarianism. Orwell pillories the corrupt authorities and, by association, so does Max Ernst.

4. Big Brother with sculptures for the Amboise fountain, outside the studio of the stonemason Gilles Chauvelin, Huismes, 1967. Photo courtesy Jürgen Pech.

5. Left to right: Séraphin le néophyte, Big Brother, and Séraphine-chérubin, Seillans, 1974. Photo: Ernst Scheidegger, courtesy Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger Archiv, c/o Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess AG.

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opposite, and pages 25 and 26:

SÉRAPHIN LE NÉOPHYTE

1967 bronze 78 x 291/2 x 291/2 inches, 198 x 75 x 75 cm. Inscribed and dated “max ernst 5/8” and “Susse Fondeur Paris 2016”.

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