Max Ernst

German / American / French (1891 - 1976)
Max Ernst Max Ernst montrant à une jeune fille la tête de son père [Max Ernst Showing a Young Girl the Head of his Father] 1926 or 1927 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021

Biography

Born 1891
Died 1976
Nationalities German
American
French
Birth place Brühl
Death place Paris

German-French painter Ernst was born near Cologne in Germany. After studying philosophy at university he turned his attention to art, and became the leader of the Cologne Dada group in 1919. He moved to Paris in 1922 to work with the Surrealists, adapting the techniques of collage and photomontage for use by the group. He worked in a range of media throughout his artistic career, producing work that was irregular, experimental and highly imaginative. The Gallery has an excellent collection of his work, including eleven paintings and collages as well as drawings, prints and illustrated books.

Glossary terms

Glossary terms

Automatism

A painting, drawing or writing process that aims to suppress rational thought, allowing the subconscious to take control. This spontaneous approach is associated with Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.

Avant-garde

The term refers to cultural practices that challenge tradition through experimentation and innovation, and is used in the context of modern and particularly twentieth-century art. From the French for ‘vanguard’ or ‘advance guard’ it dates back to the Middle Ages and was strictly a military term referring to those on the front-line, closest to conflict.

Dada

A radical artistic and literary movement that was a reaction against the cultural climate that supported the First World War. The Dadaists took an anti-establishment attitude, questioning art's status and favouring performance and collage over traditional art techniques. Many Dadaists went on to become involved with Surrealism.

Degenerate Art

The term Degenerate Art ('Entarte Kunst' in German), was coined in the 1930s by the Nazis to ridicule modern art that did not fit with Hitler’s vision'. Confiscated by the German government, exhibitions of 'Degenerate' art took place in cities including Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig. In addition to this ridicule, the Nazi's banned artists branded with the term from exhibiting or holding teaching posts.

Frottage

A technique in which paper or canvas is placed over a grainy surface and rubbed with a crayon or charcoal. This was often used by Surrealist artists to create chance effects. From the French word ‘frotter’, meaning ‘to rub’.

Photomontage

The combination of two or more photographs (or pieces of them) to form a single image. The technique came to prominence as a Dadaist form of political protest during the First World War and was later adopted by Surrealist and Pop artists.

Surrealism

A literary and artistic movement that sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. It is now regarded as one of the most radical movements of the twentieth century.

Grattage

A painting technique by which forms and textures are scraped into the wet surface of the paint, leaving behind an uneven surface. The term is derived from the French word grattage, meaning to scrape or scratch, and shares similarities with the technique frottage, both of which were pioneered by the Surrealist Max Ernst.

Exhibitions

Ended
Surreal Encounters | Collecting the Marvellous
  • Ended Sun 11 Sep 2016
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Ended
Cut and Paste | 400 Years of Collage
  • Ended Sun 27 Oct 2019
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art