Max Ernst

The first half of the 20th century was a time not only of great artistic innovation in Europe, but also desperate personal upheaval as war and political extremism swept the continent. The life and work of pre-eminent Surrealist Max Ernst has come to epitomise the plight of the European émigré artist in an age of exile and tyranny. Psychologically scarred by his experiences in World War I, his art was condemned as degenerate by the Nazis, and Hitler’s war forced him to flee into exile. It was a series of events that would produce one of the most original and powerful bodies of work in modern art.

Born into the bourgeoisie of Cologne in 1891, Ernst studied philosophy, history of art and psychiatry at the University of Bonn. He received no formal artistic training and yet, by 1913, his masterful, self-taught, Expressionist-Cubist paintings were being exhibited at the seminal Post-Impressionist Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon show in Berlin.

When war broke out in 1914, he served in the German Army. His experiences would traumatise him for life and mark a turning point in his art; when peace fell, he rejected the bourgeois conventions of German art and threw himself into the burgeoning revolution of Dada and Surrealism, producing superb Surrealist collages and paintings such as Celebes (1921).

In 1922, Ernst moved to Paris and, by 1926, had become one of the Surrealists’ leading lights, following his collaboration with Joan Miró on the design for Diaghilev’s production of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (1926).

Over the next two decades, with paintings such as La Femme 100 Têtes (1929) and The Angel of Hearth and Home (1937), he became internationally renowned, exhibiting in New York, London and Paris. Ernst reinvented his artistic techniques constantly throughout his career, experimenting with collage, frottage (rubbing), grattage (scraping), oscillation, dripping and decalcomania.

After his affair with Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington ended in her breakdown, and Europe fell to Hitler, Ernst fled France for New York. There, he married gallery owner and art patron Peggy Guggenheim, before leaving her for the artist Dorothea Tanning. Ernst would remain with Tanning until his death in 1976.

During the war years and in exile, Ernst produced some of the most important artworks of the 20th century, such as Robing of the Bride (1939–41) and Europe after the Rain (1940–42). In 2022, his powerful sculpture, Le roi jouant avec la reine (1944), achieved $24.4 million at Christie’s New York, a world auction record for the artist.

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Le roi jouant avec la reine

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

The Stolen Mirror

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le Couple (L'Accolade)

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

The Phases of the Night

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

La chute de l'ange

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Cage, forêt et soleil noir

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Paysage-effet d'attouchement

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Portrait érotique voilé

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Paysage avec lac et chimères

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Don Juan et Faustroll

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Don Juan et Faustroll

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Fleur coquille et tête d'animal sur fond rouge et noir

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le chant de la grenouilles (the song of the frog)

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

La Plus Belle

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Profanation of Spring

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Les sirènes chantent quand la raison s'endort

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Intérieur et paysage

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

LE BIJOUTIER DU CIEL

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Rien n'est incompréhensible

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

On parle le latin

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Le bijoutier du ciel

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le chant du pinson

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Aux antipodes du paysage

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Où naissent les cardinaux

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Étude pour un cavalier polonais

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le toréador

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le chant de la grenouille

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

L'éloge de la liberté

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Âmes-sœurs

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

La joie de vivre

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

An Anxious Friend (Un ami empressé)

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

DIMANCHE APRèS-MIDI SUR LES CHAMPS ELYSéES

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Mer et soleil or Tremblement de terre

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Tableau printanier

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Un ami empressé

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le grand génie ou Le grand assistant

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Jeune homme traversant une rivière prenant par la main une jeune fille et en bousculant une autre

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le soleil noir or Tremblement de terre

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

A Maiden, a Widow and a Wife

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Les coquilles

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Le tambour major de l'armée céleste

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Un microbe vu à travers un tempérament

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Les peupliers

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Universaphrodite ou Naissance d'Aphrodite

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

L'entrée des fleurs or Fleurs et coquillages

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

La plus belle

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Savage Moon

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Forêt et soleil

Max Ernst (1891-1976)

La mer et le soleil