Two Children Menaced by a Nightingale
In Max Ernst’s famous assemblage the sky is a dark blue strip at the top of the canvas. Then increasingly paler and paler green as it ladders down in layers toward the bright orange-pink outline of the wooden house pasted in the right corner. It finally turns lemon as it nuzzles the orange-pink wall stretching along the grassy lawn toward the vanishing point beyond the classical arch on top of which poises the figure whose left arm is raised like that of the Statue of Liberty. The silhouette of another building rises even farther in the background—nothing really but an ashen stain left and several inches below the center. Dark trees bunch behind another wall, this one cement, which intersects the first near that arch. A gleaming frantic red gate from a doll house swings open across the brown- lacquered frame in the foreground.
But all this is infinitely less interesting than what catches your eye in the middle-ground: the five black-and-white figures in disarray. The small bird hovering at the exact point the green sky melts into yellow. The woman, long black hair fluttering behind her, looking up at the nightingale as she darts beneath it with something—a knife? a baton?—in her hand. The clayish lump that appears to be another female body sprawled at an unnatural arc beside the house. The man in the business suit on the roof, the light-haired child in his arms, fleeing toward the blue button with a red-dot core that might just be the sun.