The picture displays Ernst’s signature grattage technique that involved scraping paint across the canvas to reveal the imprint of objects placed beneath, in this case a group of indistinct fantastical creatures in a dark forest.
It was one of a series of works he produced starting in the 1920s in which he used the German forest as a metaphor for the unconscious and the wildness of imagination.
Other works demonstrate his use of frottage and collage. In Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (1929), for example, he uses images assembled from scientific works, medical encyclopaedias and other illustrated volumes.
An Invitation to Look at the Old Bond Street gallery runs from October 2-November 29. It features works from a private collection, tracking the Surrealist’s career in 15 works produced from 1925-71. Prices range from €30,000 for works on paper to €280,000 for the more historic paintings.
On October 1, there will be a lecture about the artist delivered by art historian Dawn Adès at the gallery.