Fishbone Forest, Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Fishbone Forest
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Max Ernst

Fishbone Forest, 1927

45.5 x 37.5 cm
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Inventory Number
Acquired in 2019 as a bequest from Ulrike Crespo from the Karl Ströher Collection
On display, 1st upper level, Modern Art, room 7


About the Work

Max Ernst, one of the co-founders of Surrealism, elevated chance to the status of an artistic device. Objects found in everyday life and nature became the raw material of his art. With the aid of rubbing and impression techniques, he created abstract forms. For ‘Fishbone Forest’, he cut forms out of tin. After applying oil paint to a canvas and coating the tin shapes with black paint, he pressed them onto the still-damp canvas over and over again. Then he used a shade of ochre to highlight the fishbone-like forms that came about as a result. Finally, he added a red disc reminiscent of the sun, lending the composition depth. The overall impression is of an eery, threatening forest—one of the artist’s leitmotifs.

About the Acquisition

The Städel Museum has the photographer, psychotherapist, philanthropist, and long-time Frankfurt resident Ulrike Crespo (1950–2019) to thank for more than ninety works ranging from classical modernism to American pop art. The paintings, drawings, and prints by Wassily Kandinsky, Otto Dix, Oskar Schlemmer, Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet, Cy Twombly, and others originally belonged to the holdings of her grandfather, the Darmstadt-based industrialist Karl Ströher (1890–1977), who amassed an extensive art collection after World War II.

Work Data

Basic Information

Fishbone Forest
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert unten rechts in Weiß: max ernst
Work Catalogues
  • Spies/Metken 1976, Nr. 1252

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2024
Acquired in 2019 as a bequest from Ulrike Crespo from the Karl Ströher Collection

Work Content

Motifs and References


  • 0 Abstract, Non-representational Art
  • 49D322 curved line
  • 49D36 circle (~ planimetry, geometry)

Research and Discussion


Object History
Galerie Dr. Werner Rusche, Köln
verkauft an Karl Ströher, Darmstadt, 1954
Nachlass Karl Ströher, 1977
an seine Enkelin Ulrike Crespo (1950-2019), Frankfurt am Main
Vermächtnis an das Städelsche Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main, 2019.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.

Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:

  • the type of acquisition and/or the way the object changed hands
  • the owner's name and place of residence
  • the date on which it changed hands

The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.

Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.

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