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Max Ernst Was A True ‘G’ (German Not Gangster)


In his youth, Max Ernst initially studied philosophy and abnormal psychology at the University of Bonn, however dropped out to pursue a career as a painter in 1912. With the outbreak of World War I, Ernst had little choice but to enlist in the German Army – his dreams were abruptly interrupted, prompting him to state in an autobiography that “Max Ernst died the 1st of August, 1914.” Ernst’s firsthand experience of war filled him with new ideas, and he began to develop his own style in 1918. This consisted of a series of collages made with cut outs from medical and technical magazines – an indication that his brief education at Bonn was also a source of inspiration. Under the pseudonym of Dadamax, these collages were Ernst’s biggest contribution to the Dada movement in Cologne throughout the early 1920s.

The Hat Makes the Man 1920

Little Machine Constructed by Minimax Dadamax in Person 1920

La Puberte Proche

The Dada movement being very progressive and experimental, quickly transgressed into the more defined Surrealist movement. Ernst’s The Elephant Celebes is considered by many to be the first surrealist painting for possessing “all the characteristic elements of Surealist painting: the dreamlike atmosphere, the irrational juxtaposition of images of widely different assocaitons, the digrams of celestial phenomena, the desert landscape and the central eroticism” (Phaidon Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art). His style in the mid 1920s began to change once again, as he invented new techniques to apply to his works such frottage – the rubbing of drawing tools onto canvas/paper over a textured surface to produce unusual patterns.

The Elephant Celebes 1921

L’Ange du Foyer 1937

Overall, I think that all Surrealists and Dadaists produced very interesting and imaginative work, and am not selecting Ernst out to be a distinct favorite.

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