Maximilian Maria Ernst was born in Brühl, Germany, on 2 April 1891. Aged eighteen, Ernst originally enrolled to study philosophy at the University of Bonn in 1909, but soon abandoned this pursuit to concentrate on art. In 1911, Ernst befriended August Macke and joined the Rheinische Expressionisten. In 1913, Ernst met Guillaume Apollinaire and Robert Delaunay, subsequently travelling to Paris. There, he met Jean Arp, who became a lifelong friend.


After the First World War, in which he had to do military service, Ernst founded the Cologne Dada movement in 1918. In 1919, having visited Paul Klee in Munich and studied Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings, Ernst executed his first collages – a technique that would interest him throughout his life. By early 1921, Ernst was exhibiting in Paris and was soon involved with Surrealist activities with Paul Éluard and André Breton. Ernst developed the experimental techniques of frottage and grattage. Both were a means of exposing the forms of objects placed beneath the paper or canvas, the former through pencil rubbing and the latter through the scraping away of paint; these would prove fundamental to Ernst’s Surrealist works from this period, where birds and forests were major motifs. The bird in particular, which would take the form of his alter ego Loplop in paintings, would recur throughout his oeuvre. In 1926, he collaborated with Joan Miró on designs for Sergei Diaghilev. In 1930, Ernst collaborated with Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel on the film L'Age d'or.


Ernst’s first American show was held at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York, in 1932. Four years later, he was represented in Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1939, he was interned in France as an enemy alien. Two years later Ernst fled to the United States with Peggy Guggenheim, whom he married early in 1942. After their divorce, he married Dorothea Tanning and in 1953 resettled in France. Ernst received the Grand Prize for painting at the XXVII Venice Biennale in 1954, and in 1975 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum gave him a major retrospective, which travelled in modified form to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, in 1975. He died on 1 April 1976, in Paris.


In 2005, the Max Ernst Museum was inaugurated in Ernst’s hometown of Brühl, Germany. Ernst’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; the Menil Collection, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK), Vienna; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Kunstmuseum Basel; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Collection, London.


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