Jimmy Ernst and The Irascibles

Updates: At Spanierman Modern we have a Jimmy Ernst exhibition on view until February 6, 2010, if you’re interested! Also, read a post about Jimmy Ernst’s autobiography, A Not-So-Still Life.

Earlier this week, Sarah Hardin, head gallery Archivist, found an original issue of Life Magazine from January 15, 1951, which included a photograph of ”The Irascibles”—a group of artists who protested the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s rejection of abstract works, eventually affecting a change in the museum’s plan for its upcoming exhibition, as the caption for the photograph notes.  The group consisted of most of the leading figures in the New York School, and among its members was Jimmy Ernst (1920-1984). This was a timely discovery, as the gallery, which represents Ernst’s estate, is preparing an exhibition of his work that will open January 5, 2010.

A son of surrealist Max Ernst and the art historian Louise Straus-Ernst, Jimmy Ernst spent his childhood in the company of Paul Klee, Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and André Breton, who were among his parents’ close friends.  After emigrating to the United States in 1938, he worked in the mail room and film library of the Museum of Modern Art and later for Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery.  He began to paint in the early 1940s, creating works that evolved from surrealist images in the mode of his father to abstract freeform compositions filled with intricate quill-like markings.  Ernst was one of few artists of his time to be embraced by both the Abstract Expressionists and the literate, often elitist artists of pre- and postwar Europe, who frequently saw the younger Americans as upstarts who lacked intellectual rigor.

A scan of the magazine article is shown below. The photograph caption reads: Continue reading