In Paris, the museum which collected the most modern works was Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, of which I remembered more of the building itself than the collections within. I remembered that the most contemporary works, particularly from Pop Art Movement onward, was not very engaging, while older works were much more satisfactory, such as the works produced between the Wars, and particularly those by the tortured German artists, with whom I seemed to have great affinity.
My first pick was a surrealism print by Max Ernst, dated 1929, with a French title as Reste donc celui qui spécule sur la vanité des morts, le fantôme de la repopulation, whose rough translation could be Remained one that speculates on the vanity of the dead the ghost of the re-population.
This prints depicted two figures, one bent and ancient, calmly consulted with a sitting ape-like character with an enormous belly and limping arms. The convoluted title and the slightly domestic scene didn't diminish the strangeness and the grotesqueness. Whatever the meaning the allegory was, it had an unforgettable imagery.
Reste donc celui qui spécule sur la vanité des morts, le fantôme de la repopulation (Remainsone thatspeculateson the vanityof the deadthe ghost of therepopulation., Max Ernst, 1929
The other favorite of mine was a painting by the great German artist, Max Beckmann, Der kleine Fisch (The Small Fish), a seemingly idyllic yet not without menace, with strong contrast between sun-bathed flat areas in pale and becalming yellow and blue hues, and the densely hatched patterns in domineering black strokes.
Three figures, in retro bathing gears, formed an up-side-down pyramid in the foreground on a seaside. Two women were offered, by a suggestively smiling young man, a large, not small, fish, whose size, shape and position, had an unmistakable resemblance of a male sexual organ.
The women on the left, peeped at the fish not without curiosity, with her right arm poising to reach out to touch and feel the fish. Her friend, shrank and hid behind her, face in shadow, was full of anxiety and anguish, yet her right index finger raised in the same way the fish's rising head, forming a mirror image and her finger could be seen either as a warning sign or a bargaining gesture. Her left hand rested on the young man's arm holding the fish, her attempt to control the situation. She looked into the young man's eyes, timidly and wearily, but the young man had eyes only for the other woman, who was obviously more receptive.
A quite innocent picture impregnated with amorous, even sinister innuendos. A very economic and eloquent work.
Der kleine Fisch (Le petit poisson), Max Beckmann, 1933
My Favorite Museum Collection Series
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My Favorite Sculptures at Musée Rodin, Paris
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My Favorite Paintings from Musée d'Orsay, Paris