Max Ernst (German, April 2, 1891–April 1, 1976) was a German painter, graphic artist, and sculptor who was one of the early pioneers of Surrealism and the Dada movement. Ernst was born in Brühl, near Cologne, Germany, and he was the third child in a family of nine children. Ernst''s father was an amateur painter and the young boy was exposed to art at a tender age. Ernst enrolled in the University of Bonn to study diverse subjects like literature, art history, psychology, psychiatry, and philosophy.

After several visits to asylum institutions, Ernst became interested in the kind of art the mental illness patients were producing, and he even began painting the same years. In 1911, Ernst joined Die Rheinischen Expressionisten after becoming friends with August Macke (German, 1987–1914), who was one of the leaders of the group. A year later, he visited Cologne, and was influenced by the works of Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) and other Post-Impressionists of the time. Ernst met Hans Arp (German-French, 1886–1966) in Cologne, and the two developed a friendship that was to last for the next fifty years. He served in the First World War, which affected him just as it did other artists of the time.

Ernst tended to produce works with Freudian metaphors, mythology, and memories from his childhood. A favorite theme of his was painting a birdlike creature with human-like characteristics; Janus (1973–1974) is an example of this type of work. In 1915, the artist went to Munich, met Paul Klee (Swiss, 1879–1940), and studied the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1888–1978). It was also in this same year that made his first collages, such as Fiat Modes. Ernst, together with some of his friends and Johannes Theodor Baargeld (German, 1892–1927), founded the Dada Cologne chapter, and together they published a few magazines such as Der Strom for a few years.

In 1922, Ernst entered France illegally after failing to get the required documents. For a brief period in 1924, Ernst visited Monaco and Saigon, Vietnam, before returning to Paris, France, opening a studio a year later at 22, rue Tourlaque. Ernst was arrested by the Gestapo in 1939, but he escaped and fled, arriving in the United States in 1941. His treatise Beyond Painting was published in 1948, but he did not stay in the United States for long; he moved to the South of France in 1953.

Ernst''''''''''''''''s works can be found in places such as Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain, Tate Gallery, London, England, and Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Ernst died in Paris, France on April 1, 1976.


Born in Brühl, Germany
Studied philosophy at the Bonn University, Bonn, Germany
Became a friend of August Macke and joined the Rheinische Expressionisten group in Bonn, Germany
Met Guillaume Apollinaire and Robert Delaunay and traveled to Paris, France
Met Jean Arp, who was to become a lifelong friend
Became the leader of the Cologne Dada group, Cologne, Germany
Moved to Paris to work with the Surrealists, Paris, France
Was interned in France as an enemy alien
Fled to the United States with Peggy Guggenheim, whom he married early in 1942
Resettled in France after divorcing Peggy Guggenheim and marrying Dorthea Tanning
Recipient, Grand Prize for painting at the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Died in Paris, France


De Chirico, Max Ernst, Magritte and Balthus: A Look Into the Invisible, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy
Picasso et ses amis, Galerie für Kunst von Picasso, Dusseldorf, Germany
Max Ernst. Surrealismus, Kunsthalle Göppingen, Göppingen, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst in the Garden of Nymph Ancolie, The Menil Collection, Houston, TX (solo)
Max Ernst. Dream and Revolution, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Denmark (solo)
Max Ernst. Une semaine de bonté, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst - The Illustrated Books, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (solo)
Masterpieces, Galerie Ludorff, Dusseldorf, Germany
Max Ernst und die Welt im Buch, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria (solo)
Max Ernst. Im Garten der Nymphe Ancolie, Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
Max Ernst – Rückkehr nach Europa, Max Ernst Museum Brühl, Brühl, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst: Ballade du Soldat, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland (solo)
Max Ernst, National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia (solo)
La Abstraction del Paisaje, Fundacion Juan March, Madrid, Spain
Tapestries, Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL
Max Ernst und sein surrealistisches Umfeld, Die Galerie - Frankfurt, Frankfurt/Main, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst, Helly Nahmad Gallery, London, UK (solo)
Sprengel macht Ernst - Max Ernst im Sprengel Museum Hannover , Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover, Germany (solo)
Exil und Moderne, Kunsthalle St. Annen Lubeck, Lubeck, Germany
Max Ernst: A Retrospective, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York , NY (solo)
Max Ernst, Galerie Boisserée, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst, Galerie Dreiseitel, Cologne. Germany (solo)
Max Ernst, Books and graphics, City Art Museum, Ljubljana, Slovenia (solo)
Max Ernst Ausgesuchte grafische Arbeiten, Galerie Art 204, Dusseldorf, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst, Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, Skopje, Macedonia (solo)
Living Dust, Norwich Gallery, Norwich, UK
Arbeiten auf Papier, Galerie Dreiseitel, Cologne, Germany
Max Ernst, Malingue, Paris, France (solo)
Max Ernst - Im Inneren des Blicks, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany (solo)
Farbig.Schwarz.Weiss, Galerie Rieder GmbH, Munich, Germany
Max Ernst - Lithographien und Graphiken, Kunsthalle, Luckenwalde, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst - The Graphic Work, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent, Belgium ; Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium (solo)
Max Ernst, Museum Liner, Appenzell, Switzerland (solo)
The Proper Meaning, Zwirner & Wirth, New York, NY
Max Ernst - (Brühl 1891 - 1976 Paris) - Galerie Boisserée, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Kopfe und Gesichter, Galerie Stubler, Hanover, Germany
Max Ernst: Bücher, Collagen, Frottagen, Zeichnungen, Radierungen, Städtische Galerie Nordhorn, Nordhorn, Germany (solo)
Max Ernst: 1891-1976, MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
Retrospectiive, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France (solo)
Max Ernst, MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
Julien Levy Gallery, New York, NY
Ernst, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris, France (solo)
Galerie au Sans Pareil, Paris, France

Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid, Spain
Tate Gallery, London, UK
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain


M. E. Warlick, Franklin Rosemont. Max Ernst and Alchemy: A Magician in Search of Myth (Surrealist). Texas: University of Texas Press, 2001