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A profile of artist Max Ernst

Updated on March 21, 2015

Max Ernst was born on the 2 April 1891, in Buhl southwest of Germany. He was the first son of Phillip Ernst, who was a deaf teacher; his mother was Luise née Kopp. In 1910, he applied to Bonn University to study philosophy and psychiatry. Without any formal training as an artist, he began to develop a strong interest in Art. Graduating from university in 1914, Jean (Hans) Arp whom he became friends with for the rest of his life. At the beginning of the first world war, Ernst was conscripted into the Army and served in the field artillery.


In 1916, he managed to take part in the ‘Sturm’ exhibition in Berlin, it was the first time he met with Dada artists. Moving to Cologne after the end of the war, he lived with Johannes Theodor Baargeld. After they both founded the Dada artists group, in 1920, they exhibited their work at the water brewery. The exhibition was considered obscene by the authorities and when the police intervened it was quickly closed.

Two years later, in 1922, Ernst accepted an invitation to join Dadaists Gala and Paul Eluard, Tristan Tzara, André Breton and others, when he moved to Paris. That same year he painted a ‘Reunion of Friends‘, showing himself to all his contemporary peers. Combining his early Parisian paintings, while depicting collages in his artwork. In 1925, Ernst painted a number of frottage’s which was eventually published in his book that he wrote in the following year. Writing La Femme 100 têtes, the novel was the first collage-novels he wrote, in 1929. Ernst first American exhibition was, in 1932, at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York city. Four years later his next exhibition displayed his Dada, Surrealism, at the Museum of Art in New York. In 1937, he decided to move away from Breton and the other Surrealists, he left Paris a year later and settled in the south of France. Moving to Saint Martin d'Ardèche, he painted ‘The Robing of the Bride’ which became one of his most famous paintings.

Before the outbreak of the second world war, Ernst was interned by the French police. However, Eluad pleaded on behalf of Ernst and eventually he was released from custody shortly afterwards. In 1942, he decided to immigrate to New York, America with Gallery owner, Peggy Guggenheim, whom he married after arriving. In 1944,‘The King Playing with the Queen’ was one of the sculptures he completed towards to the of the war. At the end of the war, he divorced Guggenheim and married American artist Dorothea Tanning after moving to Arizona.

In 1949, he returned to Paris, Ernst sculptures during this period were less focused on experimental methods and instead he used traditional sculpting materials. Throughout the 1950’s he was highly recognised for his earlier works during the Dada period. In 1953, he received the Grand prize for painting at the Venice Biennale. Then on the 1 April, 1976, Ernst died in Paris only one before his eighty-fifth birthday.

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