Surreal getting real

This is The King Playing the Queen by Max Ernst, made in 1944 in the US.


It was shown at the recent Paris exhibition, but I wonder why the curators didn’t present the whole story.

Max Ernst was living in the US at the time, with his wife, Dorothea Tanning, They were a happy couple, as evidenced by this photo – even with their backs against each other:

Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, photo by Lee Miller, 1947

They were both artists, and they both loved playing chess:


He created the wooden set in the picture to reflect symbolic meanings of chess pieces and the game, overall. It was a long process, with a lot of drawings, and clay models he was perfecting along the way.


His wooden pieces were later made in glass.

A chess player, who is accustomed to watching the board from above, may find extra enjoyment in studying it from different angles. Professional chess players often talk of a very special type of beauty that the game seems to possess. Well, even to my amateurish eye, there’s lots of beauty, danger, threat, and excitement in these arrangements:

Max Ernst gave the name “Immortal” to his chess masterpiece. This is a very rare case of something surreal becoming very much a real part of this world.

I wonder why it has never been mass-produced.

Chess itself can be a very versatile artistic medium.

Even an ordinary set of pieces can bring to life the most complicated and even abstract concepts:


Imagine how far an artistic mind could go with Max Ernst’s chess set!

If you want to read the whole surrealism series, click on the surreal tag at the bottom.


    1. Thank you for the link. I can’t recognise the brand that I historically considered as a teenage brand that my sons seemed to like… I’ve spent too much time in marketing to appreciate commercial videos though. Too much cynicism in me now ))

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