Born on April 2, 1891, Max Ernst was from Brühl, Germany,
a town near Cologne. Ernst was a philosophy student at the
University of Bonn, when he made the decision to drop philosophy
and concentrate on painting. While he never had any formal
training, Ernst considered art his life, to the point that
when his art was interrupted to serve with the German army
during World War I, he referred to the day his military service
began as the day he died.
the end of the First World War, Ernst joined with fellow artists
Jean Arp and Alfred Grünwald in forming a Dada group in Cologne,
Germany. In 1918, he entered into marriage with art historian
Luise Straus. They had one son together, but the relationship
was unstable and short lived. Soon after that marriage, Ernst
became friends with poet Paul Eluard and his wife Gala, and
the three enjoyed an open ménage a trois relationship. Ernst
moved with the couple to Paris in 1921, leaving behind Straus
and their young son, Jimmy.
1925, just a few years after entering into the artists’ community
of Montparnasse, he invented the technique for which he is
famous called frottage. The technique involves using pencil
rubbings of objects as a source of images. His discovery of
this technique was followed a year later with the invention
of the grattage technique, developed by Ernst and fellow surrealist
Joan Miro. It was around this time that Ernst also began using
a technique he called decalcomania, which involved pressing
paint between two surfaces.
had a fascination with birds, which developed when he was
a child. He developed an alter ego character known as Loplop,
who was a bird, and claimed that he felt Loplop was an extension
of himself and a childhood confusion between birds and humans
resulting from the death of his pet bird at the same time
the birth of his younger sister occurred. The character of
Loplop appears in some of Ernst’s collages.
It is said that the inspiration for some of Ernst’s erotic
works, such as The Kiss, was the woman he married in 1927,
Marie-Berthe Aurenche. This marriage was also destined to
1934, Ernst began sculpting, and soon after caught the eye
of Peggy Guggenheim. Guggenheim collected several pieces of
Ernst’s work to display in her London museum. Ernst was arrested
twice during World War II, including once by the Gestapo,
and thanks to Guggenheim’s intercession, he was able to escape
with her to the United States. He left behind Leonora Carrington,
with whom he had an intimate affair, and his leaving caused
Carrington to suffer a mental breakdown and be hospitalized.
Ernst married Peggy Guggenheim in 1942, but that marriage
also failed. Just 4 years after his marriage to Guggenheim,
Ernst married Dorothea Tanning in a double ceremony with American
artist Man Ray and his betrothed. The couple moved to Sedona,
Arizona, where Ernst penned the book Beyond Painting. The
book finally helped Ernst to achieve financial success as
a result of the wide spread publicity.
1953, Ernst and Tanning returned to France, where Ernst continued
painting and sculpting. He died one day short of his birthday
in 1974, and is interred in Paris.