Max Ernst (2 April 1891 - 1 April 1976) was a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst is considered to be one of the primary pioneers of Dada movement and Surrealism. Ernst was born in Brühl, Germany, near Cologne. In 1909, he enrolled in the University at Bonn to study philosophy but soon abandoned the courses. He began painting that year, but never received any formal artistic training. During World War I he served in the German army, which was a momentous interruption in his career as an artist. He stated in his autobiography, "Max Ernst died the 1st of August, 1914."
After the war, filled with new ideas, Ernst, Jean Arp and social activist Alfred Grünwald, formed the Cologne, Germany Dada group. In 1918 he married the art historian Luise Straus; it was a stormy relationship that would not last. The couple had a son who was born in 1920, the artist Jimmy Ernst. (Luise died in Auschwitz in 1944.) In 1919 Ernst visited Paul Klee and created paintings, block prints and collages, and experimented with mixed media. In 1922, he joined fellow Dadaists André Breton, Gala, Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard at the artistic community of Montparnasse.
Constantly experimenting, in 1925 he invented a graphic art technique called frottage, which uses pencil rubbings of objects as a source of images. The next year he collaborated with Joan Miró on designs for Sergei Diaghilev. With Miró's help, Ernst pioneered grattage in which he troweled pigment from his canvases. He also explored with the technique of decalcomania which involves pressing paint between two surfaces.
Ernst developed a fascination with birds that was prevalent in his work. His alter ego in paintings, which he called Loplop, was a bird. He suggested this alter-ego was an extension of himself stemming from an early confusion of birds and humans. He said that one night when he was young he woke up and found that his beloved bird had died, and a few minutes later his father announced that his sister was born. Loplop often appeared in collages of other artists' work, such as Loplop presents André Breton.
Ernst drew a great deal of controversy with his 1926 painting The Virgin Chastises the infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter. In 1927 he married Marie-Berthe Aurenche, and it is thought his relationship with her may have inspired the erotic subject matter of The Kiss and other works of this year. In 1930, he appeared in the film L'Âge d'or, directed by self-identifying Surrealist Luis Buñuel. Ernst began to make sculpture in 1934, and spent time with Alberto Giacometti. In 1938, the American heiress and artistic patron Peggy Guggenheim acquired a number of Max Ernst's works which she displayed in her new museum in London. In 1938 he was interned in Camp des Milles, near Aix-en-Provence, along with fellow surrealist, Hans Bellmer, who had recently emigrated to Paris on the outbreak of World War II. Thanks to the intercession of Paul Éluard, and other friends including the journalist Varian Fry he was discharged a few weeks later.
Soon after the Nazi occupation of France, he was arrested again, this time by the Gestapo, but managed to escape and flee to America with the help of Guggenheim. He left behind his lover, Leonora Carrington, and she suffered a major mental breakdown. Ernst and Guggenheim arrived in the United States in 1941 and were married the following year. Along with other artists and friends (Marcel Duchamp and Marc Chagall) who had fled from the war and lived in New York City, Ernst helped inspire the development of Abstract expressionism. His marriage to Guggenheim did not last, and in Beverly Hills, California in October 1946, in a double ceremony with Man Ray and Juliet P. Browner, he married Dorothea Tanning. The couple first made their home in Sedona, Arizona.
In 1948 Ernst wrote the treatise Beyond Painting. As a result of the publicity, he began to achieve financial success. In 1953 he and Tanning moved to a small town in the south of France where he continued to work. The City, and the Galeries Nationales du Grand-Palais in Paris published a complete catalogue of his works. In 1966 he created a chessgame made of glass which he named "Immortel"; it has been described as: "a masterpiece of bewitching magic, worthy of a Maya palace or the residence of a Pharaon." Ernst died on 1 April 1976, in Paris. He was interred there at the Père Lachaise Cemetery