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 the Dada movement and Surrealism. He 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."

Ernst died on 1 April 1976, in Paris. He was interred there at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.



Max Ernst's  Europe After the Rain II conjures up a surreal, apocalyptic landscape that seems to reflect his own personal horror at the wars through which he lived and fought. In this article, Singulart takes a closer look at Max Ernst’s life and examines Europe After the Rain II as well as his experimental techniques. 

Europe After the Rain II depicts an abstract, apocalyptic landscape, reminiscent of classical paintings of ruins. In the center of these ruins stands a creature, half-man and half-bird, wielding a spear at a green woman, whose back is turned to him and the viewer. This surreal, multicolored landscape seems to represent the destruction of a mythical or futuristic war with its strange crumbling structures hiding an array of figures and details. However certain details suggest that Europe After the Rain II also has an autobiographical thread running through it, such as the presence of the bird/human figure which can be found in many of Ernst’s works as his alter-ego. It can also be considered within the historical context of Europe in the early twentieth century, as a testament to the devastation of warfare that continued to ravage Europe at the time that Ernst painted Europe After the Rain II. Despite the ambiguity of this painting, it is easy to feel Ernst’s disgust at the consequences of war in this composition. 

Max Ernst’s experimental painting techniques


    IEurope After the Rain II Ernst employs many of his techniques developed at the start of his career to enhance the textures and surreal quality of the landscape. One such technique used here was named “grattage” and was an extension of his original “frottage” technique. Whereas “frottage” consisted of laying paper over a textured surface and rubbing with pencil to transfer the texture to the paper, “grattage” involved layering materials such as wood, wire, rope or glass underneath a primed canvas. Multiple layers of paint were applied and then scraped away whilst pressing into the objects beneath to reveal their textures in the paint. This technique contributes to the strange, other-worldly textures and shapes found in the landscape of Europe After the Rain II. 


Dada and Surrealism

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 — 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.

  World War II and later life

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.