Max Ernst

  • Illustrationsvorlage „La brebis galante“ La rousse
  • Séraphin le Néophyte Souris-Sourires-Solidaires
  • 1949, Collage und Tusche auf Papier, 29,5 x 22,7
  • 1966, Frottage und Farbkreide auf Papier, 27 x 13 cm
  • 1967/2001, Bronze, 203 x 75 x 75 cm
  • 1974, Collage, 10 x 13 cm

Max Ernst, born 1891 in Brühl near Cologne, Germany, is one of the most important members of both the Dada and Surrealist movements. His thinking and therefore his art were heavily influenced by the humanities: he studied Philosophy, Art History, Literature, and Psychology at Bonn University from 1909 –1911. Shortly thereafter, from 1914 to 1918, he served in WWI, mainly as a cartographer, which allowed him to continue painting, which he had taken up in 1906.

Soon after demobilisation he made his first collages and, in 1919, he founded the Cologne Dada group together with his friend Johannes Theodor Baargeld. In 1925 he developed the “frottage” (rubbing) technique, from 1934 onwards he also produced sculptures, mostly materialisations of imagined beings, of his favourite phantoms. The Nazis denounced two of Ernst’s works in 1937 during the show “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate art). From 1942 –1946 Peggy Guggenheim was his second wife, having helped Ernst to flee from the Gestapo in 1939 and to emigrate to the U.S. in 1941. Five years later, he married Dorothea Tanning and, from the popularity of his book “Beyond Painting,” he enjoyed financial success in 1948 and became an American Citizen. He would later relocate to the South of France in 1953, ultimately dying in Paris in 1976.

Max Ernst’s early mature works were abstract expressionist images using cubist strategies and included some figuration, all done in vivid colours. He moved to Paris (illegally) in 1922 and went on to contribute greatly to the spontaneous, erratic, irrational and scandalous Dada movement and, subsequently, to surrealism. Werner Spies wrote: “Ernst dissected the inner stuff of imagined beings, – ventured inside the skin, to mysterious and incomprehensible parts of plants and animals. His most generalised biomorphic beings were arranged in settings that range from stately salons to exotic gardens.” (1) His imagery was always highly charged with symbolism, psychological tension in both the figures and in the situation depicted. The battle of the sexes, tensions in family relations and the potential for violence in mass society.

In America his work proved influential as well, becoming known world-wide and receiving the Great Prize for painting at the 1954 Venice Biennale. His imagery underwent a change from visions of doom to lighter, crystalline visions. In his treatise “Beyond Painting” Max Ernst wrote, “I have seen with my very own eyes the appearance of things recede, and I felt a quiet and grim joy over it. Within my activity (passivity) I contributed to the general cataclysm, which nowadays is accomplished in the most securely acquired and incarnate ‘realities’.” (2)

It seems evident when judging Max Ernst’s career that the issues defined in the works of modern masters remain the crucial issues of contemporary art. Innovation no longer serves as the sole measure of artistic achievement. What counts instead is the creation of a distinctive personal idiom or a distinctive response to the challenging realities of a global society. Max Ernst has demonstrated what it means to be an artist in a world of constant change. (3)

(1) Werner Spies: Preface, in: William A. Camfield, Max Ernst. Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism, Munich 1993, p. 13

(2) Re-translated from the German in: Patrick Waldberg, Der Surrealismus, Cologne 1965, p. 75

(3) See Werner Spies and Sabine Rewald, Max Ernst. A Retrospective. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications, 2005, p. 102



Gallery Exhibitions

Samuelis Baumgarte exhibition:

Surreale Begegnungen, 13.09.2014 - 22.11.2014, Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie

nature: attitude, 08.03.2008 - 31.05.2008, Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie

Ein Hauch von Eden, 27.11.2010 - 31.01.2011, Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie

Museum Exhibitions

Der Flaneur, Sept. 20, 2018 - Jan. 13, 2019, Kunstmuseum Bonn

Robert Altman: Verleger und Mäzen, till Aug. 19, 2018, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz (FL)

Max Ernst: The 100 year astronaut, till July 31, 2018, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (NL)

Passion de l'art, till Sep. 24, 2017, Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence (F)

Unter freiem Himmel, till Aug. 27, 2017, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe

(un)erwartet. Die Kunst des Zufalls, Niki de St. Phalle, Max Ernst, Robert Fillou, Peter Lacroix, Otto Piene u.a ., Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart

Sonja Sekula, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock & Friends, June 11, 2016 - Sep. 25, 2016, Kunstmuseum Luzern (CH)

From Kandinsky to Pollock: The Art of the Guggenheim Collections, until July 24.07, 2016, Palazzo Strozzi, Florenz (I)

Future Present: Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung - Zeigenössische Kunst von der Klassischen Moderne bis heute, until Jan. 31, 2016, Schaulager - Laurenz-Stiftung, Basel, Swiss

Ich bin eine Pflanze, July 11, 2015 - Nov. 8, 2015, Kunstmuseum Ravensburg, Ravensburg

Europa. Die Zukunft der Geschichte, June 12, 2015 - Sep. 6, 2015, Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich (CH)

hackordnung #5 - Formfreiheit, until Jan. 6, 2015, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Luwigshafen am Rhein

Europe 1900-1975: Selections from the Museum\'s Collection, until Jan. 4, 2015, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (USA)

The Surrealism & Duchamp, until Aug. 17, 2014, Moderna Museet, Stockholm (S)

Der Max ist da! Rendezvous des amis, Sep. 27, 2014 - Feb. 22, 2015, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen

Surréalisme & arts primitifs. Un air de famille, until Oct. 5, 2014, Fondation Pierre Arnaud Centre d\'Art, Lens/Montana (CH)

RuhrKunstSzene, until Nov. 9, 2014, Kunsthalle Recklinghausen

Kunst und Alchemie - Das Geheimnis der Verwandlung, April 5, 2014 - Aug. 10, 2014, Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

Unter der Erde - Vom Kafka bis Kippenberger. Quadriennale Düsseldorf 2014,
April 5, 2014 - Aug. 10, 2014, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, K21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf

Seine Augen trinken alles-Max Ernst und die Zeit um den ersten Weltkrieg,
Feb. 23, 2014 - June 29, 2014, Max Ernst Museum, Brühl

Die Sammlung Gunter Sachs: Max Ernst, Jean Fautrier, Hans Hartung..., until March 30, 2014,
Kunsthalle Schweinfurt

Traum-Bilder: Ernst, Magritte, Dali, Picasso, Antes, Nay..., until Jan. 26, 2014, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

Joseph Cornell and Surrealism in New York: Dali, Duchamp, Ernst, Man Ray..., until Feb. 10, 2014,
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (F)

The Surrealism & Duchamp: Max Ernst, Meret Oppenheim, Francis Picabia..., until Jan. 5, 2014,
Moderna Museet, Stockholm (S)

Max Ernst, Jan. 23, 2013 - May 5, 2013, Albertina, Wien (A)

Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst. Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni, Feb. 24, 2013 - June 23, 2013,
Max Ernst Museum Brühl

Schwarze Romantik: Von Goya bis Max Ernst., Sep. 26, 2012 - Jan. 20, 2013, Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Lorbeeren und Erdbeeren. Max Ernst - Das grafische Spätwerk 1949 - 1976,
Feb. 28, 2012 - June 10, 2012, Sprengel Museum Hannover