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Max Ernst

Geburtstag: 2. April 1891
Todesdatum: 1. April 1976


Max Ernst , eigentlich Maximilian Maria Ernst, war ein bedeutender Maler, Grafiker und Bildhauer deutscher Herkunft. Nach dem Militärdienst im Ersten Weltkrieg gründete er 1919 zusammen mit Johannes Baargeld und Hans Arp die Kölner Dada-Gruppe. 1922 ließ er seine Familie zurück und zog nach Paris, wo er sich dem Kreis der Surrealisten um André Breton anschloss und zu einem der wichtigsten Mitglieder im künstlerischen Bereich der surrealistischen Bewegung wurde. Zu Beginn des Zweiten Weltkriegs wurde er ab 1939 mehrfach in Frankreich interniert, konnte zusammen mit der Kunstmäzenin Peggy Guggenheim, seiner späteren dritten Ehefrau, fliehen und wählte, wie viele andere europäische Künstler, 1941 als Exil die USA. 1953 kehrte er mit seiner vierten Ehefrau, der Malerin Dorothea Tanning, nach Frankreich zurück.

Mit seinen Gemälden, Collagen und Skulpturen schuf der Künstler rätselhafte Bildkombinationen, bizarre Wesen, die häufig Vögel darstellen, und phantastische Landschaften. Neben seinem künstlerischen Werk verfasste Max Ernst Gedichte und autobiografische sowie kunsttheoretische Schriften. Künstlerbücher nehmen einen breiten Raum in seinem Schaffen ein. Die Techniken Frottage, Grattage und Drip Painting, als Oszillation entwickelt, gehen auf ihn zurück. Angewendet durch Jackson Pollock wurde Drip Painting zu einem Bestandteil des amerikanischen abstrakten Expressionismus.

Zitate Max Ernst

„Max Ernst died the 1st of August 1914. He resuscitated the 11th of November 1918 as a young man aspiring to become a magician and to find the myth of his time.“

— Max Ernst
Quote in 'Some Data on the Youth of M. E., As Told by Himself' in the w:View (April 1942); also cited in Max Ernst and Alchemy (2001) by M. E. Warlick, p. 17 Max Ernst refers to his serving-period on the Western and then on the Eastern front during World War 1 (1914-1918)


„A banal fever hallucination, soon obliterated and forgotten; it didn't reappear in M's memory until about thirty years later (on 10 August 1925), as he sat alone on a rainy day in a little inn by the seaside, staring at the wooden floor which had been scored by years of scrubbing, and noticed that the grain had started moving of its own accord (much like the lines on the [imitation] mahogany board of his childhood). As with the mahogany board back then, and as with visions seen between sleeping and waking, the lines formed shifting, changing images, blurred at first but then increasingly precise. Max {Ernst] decided to pursue the symbolism of this compulsory inspiration and, in order to sharpen his meditative and hallucinatory skills, he took a series of drawings from the floorboards. Letting pieces of paper drop at random on the floor, he rubbed over them with a black pencil. On careful inspection of the impressions made in this way, he was surprised by the sudden increase they produced in his visionary abilities. His curiosity was aroused. He was delighted, and began making the same type of inquiry into all sorts of materials, whatever caught his eye – leaves with their ribs, the frayed edges of sacking, the strokes of a palette knife in a 'modern' painting, thread rolling off a spool, and so forth. To quote 'Beyond Painting' These drawings, the first fruits of the frottage technique, were collected under the title 'Histoire Naturell'.“

— Max Ernst
Quote in 'Biographical Notes. Tissue of truth, Tissue of Lies', 1929; as cited in Max Ernst. A Retrospective, Munich, Prestel, 1991, pp.283/284


„A picture that I painted after the defeat of the Republicans in Spain [in 1936, Max Ernst was a resolute opponent of the Spanish dictator General Franco, who was supported by Germany's Nazi regime] is 'The Fireside Angel'. This is, of course, an ironic title for a rampaging beast that destroys and annihilates anything that gets in its way. This was my idea at the time of what would probably happen in the world, and I was right.“

— Max Ernst
Quote in 'Room 10, Max Ernst', the exhibition text of FONDATION BEYELER 2 - MAX ERNST, 2013, texts: Raphaël Bouvier & Ioana Jimborean; ed. Valentina Locatelli; transl. Karen Williams Max Ernst is referring to his painting 'L'ange du foyer' / 'Le triomphe du surréalisme', 1937 ('The Fireside Angel' / The Triumph of Surrealism'); the alternative title was offered by Ernst himself in 1938, when he spontaneously opted for a different title: 'The Triumph of Surrealism'.


„Woman's nakedness is wiser than the teachings of the philosophers. [the title of his essay]“

— Max Ernst
Quote in Max Ernst, Gonthier-Seghers, Paris, 1959; as cited in Max Ernst sculpture, Museo d'arte contemporanea. Edizioni Charta, Milano, 1996, p. 37

„Studies in painting: Non. He learned to express himself by means of art in the same way as the child learns to talk. No teaching is needed for the one who is born an artist, and even the expression 'self-taught' is a phony, he thinks.“

— Max Ernst
Quote in a questionnaire, Max Ernst filled out in 1948, the U.S; as cited in Max Ernst: a Retrospective, ed. Werner Spies & Sabine Rewald, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2005, p. 7

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