Max Ernst (2 April 1891 – 1 April 1976) was a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was one of the primary pioneers of the Dada movement and Surrealism. Painter, sculptor and printmaker; one of the leading Surrealists. Born at Brühl, near Cologne. Began to study philosophy at the University of Bonn in 1909, but became increasingly preoccupied with painting; self-taught, but influenced by van Gogh and Macke. Artillery officer in the First World War. The paintings of de Chirico helped to stimulate his interest in dream-like fantastic imagery, and he founded the Cologne Dada group with Baargeld and Arp 1919-21. Made collages and, later, paintings with irrational combinations of imagery. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Au sans Pareil, Paris, 1921. In 1922 moved to Paris, where his friendship with Breton and Eluard led to active participation in the Surrealist movement. His discovery of the technique of frottage (rubbing) in 1925 provided him with a means of evoking hallucinatory visions. Collage novels and illustrations, including La Femme 100 Têtes 1929 and Une Semaine de Bonté 1934. Made his first sculpture in 1934. Went to the USA as a refugee in 1941, living first in or near New York, then in Sedona, Arizona; from 1950 again lived mainly in France. Awarded the main painting prize at the 1954 Venice Biennale. Died in Paris.
Ernst’s work relied on spontaneity (juxtapositions of materials and imagery) and subjectivity (inspired by his personal experiences), two creative ideals that came to define Abstract Expressionism. Although Ernst’s works are predominantly figurative, his unique artistic techniques inject a measure of abstractness into the texture of his work. The work of Max Ernst was very important in the nascent Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, particularly for Jackson Pollock.