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Max Ernst Photo

Max Ernst

German Painter and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Dada, Surrealism

Born: April 2, 1891 - Bruhl, Germany

Died: April 1, 1976 - Paris, France

Max Ernst Timeline

Quotes

"The role of the painter... is to project that which sees itself in him."
Max Ernst
"Collage is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them."
Max Ernst
"He who speaks of collage speaks of the irrational."
Max Ernst
"All good ideas arrive by chance."
Max Ernst
"Art has nothing to do with taste. Art is not there to be tasted."
Max Ernst

"Painting is not for me either decorative amusement, or the plastic invention of felt reality; it must be every time: invention, discovery, revelation."

Max Ernst Signature

Synopsis

German-born Max Ernst was a provocateur, a shocking and innovative artist who mined his unconscious for dreamlike imagery that mocked social conventions. A soldier in World War I, Ernst emerged deeply traumatized and highly critical of western culture. These charged sentiments directly fed into his vision of the modern world as irrational, an idea that became the basis of his artwork. Ernst's artistic vision, along with his humor and verve come through strongly in his Dada and Surrealists works; Ernst was a pioneer of both movements. Spending the majority of his life in France, during WWII Ernst was categorized as an "enemy alien"; the United States government affixed the same label when Ernst arrived as a refugee. In later life, in addition to his prolific outpouring of paintings, sculpture, and works-on-paper, Ernst devoted much of his time to playing and studying chess which he revered as an art form. His work with the unconscious, his social commentary, and broad experimentation in both subject and technique remain influential.

Key Ideas

Max Ernst attacked the conventions and traditions of art, all the while possessing a thorough knowledge of European art history. He questioned the sanctity of art by creating non-representational works without clear narratives, by making sport of religious icons, and by formulating new means of creating artworks to express the modern condition.
Ernst was profoundly interested in the art of the mentally ill as a means to access primal emotion and unfettered creativity.
Ernst was one of the first artists to apply Sigmund Freud's dream theories investigate his deep psyche in order to explore the source of his own creativity. While turning inwards unto himself, Ernst was also tapping into the universal unconscious with its common dream imagery.
Interested in locating the origin of his own creativity, Ernst attempted to freely paint from his inner psyche and in an attempt to reach a pre-verbal state of being. Doing so unleashed his primal emotions and revealed his personal traumas, which then became the subject of his collages and paintings. This desire to paint from the sub-conscious, also known as automatic painting was central to his Surrealist works and would later influence the Abstract Expressionists.

Biography

Max Ernst Photo

Childhood

Max Ernst was born into a middle-class Catholic family of nine children in Bruhl, Germany, near Cologne. Ernst first learned to paint from his father, a strict disciplinarian who was deaf, and a teacher who held an avid interest in academic art. A good deal of Ernst's work as an adult sought to undermine authority including that of his father. Other than this introduction to amateur painting at home, Ernst never received any formal training in art: thus he was responsible for his own artistic techniques. Ernst matriculated at the University of Bonn in 1914 to study philosophy but soon abandoned it, later claiming that he avoided "any studies which might degenerate into breadwinning." Instead, the artist preferred those areas of study considered "futile by his professors - predominately painting...seditious philosophers, and unorthodox poetry." At this time, Ernst became deeply interested in psychology and the art of the mentally ill. When World War I broke out Ernst was conscripted into the German army and served in an artillery division in which he directly experienced the drama and bloodshed of trench warfare - he served on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. Ernst was one of multiple artists who emerged from military service emotionally wounded and alienated from European traditions and conventional values.

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Max Ernst Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Max Ernst
Interactive chart with Max Ernst's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Caspar David FriedrichCaspar David Friedrich
August MackeAugust Macke
Vincent van GoghVincent van Gogh
Giorgio de ChiricoGiorgio de Chirico
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp

Personal Contacts

André BretonAndré Breton
Paul EluardPaul Eluard

Movements

DadaDada
SurrealismSurrealism

Influences on Artist
Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Years Worked: 1891 - 1976
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
Cindy ShermanCindy Sherman
Sigmar PolkeSigmar Polke

Personal Contacts

Dorothea TanningDorothea Tanning
Jimmy ErnstJimmy Ernst
Peggy GuggenheimPeggy Guggenheim

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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