Seances are a time of meditation, dreams, magic and inspiration. And that is probably why Max Ernst's work is considered on the border of a seance. Here is an interesting article on how surrealistic art can conjure up the spirits.
When Max Ernst was a child and bedridden with the measles, he had a fever dream in which “two children are threatened by a nightingale,” a hallucination that would inspire his 1924 painting of the same name. When the birth of his sister coincided with the death of his cherished cockatoo, correlation, in the logic of the unconscious, became causality: “birds and humans got dangerously mixed up and confused in my mind,” he recalled years later. Ernst eventually created his trailblazing “collage novels” that mix symbolic imagery with otherworldly elements.
More than three-quarters of a century on, the collage novels still cast an unsettling spell, plunging us into a gaslit Victorian underworld of the unconscious, part magic lantern show, part séance, all Freudian uncanny. Armed with scissors and glue, Ernst performed meticulous surgery on 19th-century engravings— illustrations from Gothic romances, penny dreadfuls, mail order catalogues, and scientific texts — to create disquieting tableaux. Marrying hallucinatory visions to hard-edged realism, true crime horror to black humor, they flicker in the mind’s eye like scenes from a silent movie — a melodrama based on Jack the Ripper’s dream journal, perhaps.
By no coincidence, birds and birdmen proliferate in all three books: a bird-headed pope prophesies doom in A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil (“Baldness awaits you, my child … ”); a man-sized eagle “speculates on the vanity of the dead” in The Hundred Headless Woman; in A Week of Kindness, rooster men run amok, desecrating tombs; exult over victims in puddles of gore; hang themselves from four-poster beds.