Max Ernst (2 April 1891 – 1 April 1976) was a German (naturalised American in 1948 and French in 1958) painter, sculptor, printmaker, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism in Europe.
He had no formal artistic training, but his experimental attitude toward the making of art resulted in his invention of frottage—a technique that uses pencil rubbings of textured objects and relief surfaces to create images—and grattage, an analogous technique in which paint is scraped across canvas to reveal the imprints of the objects placed beneath.
Ernst is noted for his unconventional drawing methods as well as for creating novels and pamphlets using the method of collages. He served as a soldier for four years during World War I, and this experience left him shocked, traumatised and critical of the modern world. During World War II he was designated an “undesirable foreigner” while living in France.
Ernst was born in Brühl. He began painting in 1909 while studying at the University of Bonn, and later joined the Die Rheinischen Expressionisten group of artists. Ernst’s work often featured ironic juxtapositions of grotesque elements with Cubist and Expressionist motifs.
He had a fascination with birds, often including his alter ego, Loplop, a bird, in his work. He eventually settled in France and achieved financial success in the 1950s. He died in Paris on 1 April 1976.