Max Ernst with rocking horse, Paris, 1938 © 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich, Photo: Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Stiftung Max Ernst
Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with the cement sculpture Capricorn (detail), Sedona, Arizona, 1948 © 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich

Max Ernst, 1891 – 1976

Germany 1891 – 1922
   Max Ernst is born on 2 April in Brühl, near Cologne. He is the third of nine children born to Philipp Ernst, a teacher for the mute and hearing impaired and an amateur painter, and his wife Luise.

1910 – 1914    Studies classical philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and art history at the University of Bonn.

1913    Participates in the exhibition Rheinischer Expressionismus and briefly visits Paris for the first time, where he meets Guillaume Apollinaire and Robert Delaunay at the home of August Macke.

1914    Beginning of his friendship with Hans Arp, whom he meets in the Galerie Feldmann in Cologne. Called up to serve in the artillery in the First World War.

1918    Marries the art historian Luise Straus.

1919    Founds the Cologne Dada group together with Hans Arp and Johannes Theodor Baargeld.  Dada exhibition in Cologne. Max Ernst creates his first collages. Visits Paul Klee in Munich.

1920    Birth of his son Hans-Ulrich Ernst, known as Jimmy.

1921    First exhibition of collages in Paris. Holiday with Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber, Tristan Tzara and André Breton in Tarrenz (Tyrol).

France 1922 – 1941

1922    Max Ernst moves to Paris, leaving his wife and son behind.

1923    Max Ernst moves to Eaubonne outside Paris with Paul and Gala Éluard, where he takes on the task of painting the rooms. He exhibits at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris

1924    André Breton publishes his first Surrealist manifesto.

1925    The Parisian art dealer Jacques Viot signs a contract with Max Ernst. The first frottages are created.

1926    Divorces Luise Straus.

1927    Marries Marie-Berthe Aurenche. Begins his Horden, Wälder, Muschelblumen und Vogeldenkmäler (Hordes, Forests, Shell-Flowers and Monuments to the Birds) series.

1929    Publication of the first collage novel La femme 100 têtes.

1930    Short role in Luis Buñuel’s film L’âge d’or. Foundation of the magazine Le surréalisme au service de la révolution. Meets Alberto Giacometti.

1932    First one-man exhibitions in the USA at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York.

1934    Spends part of the summer in Zurich, where he paints a mural in the Corso Bar. Meets the novelist James Joyce.

1936    Leaves Marie-Berthe Aurenche. 48 of his paintings are shown in the exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism in New York.

1937    Publication of the essay Au-delà de la peinture in the magazine Cahiers d’art. The special issue is dedicated to Max Ernst. He paints L’ange du foyer (Fireside Angel). A large number of his works are confiscated in Germany and one painting is shown in the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich.

1938    Max Ernst leaves the Surrealist group and goes to Saint-Martin d’Ardèche in the south of France with his lover, the artist Leonora Carrington.

1939/40    Max Ernst is interned twice as an enemy alien. He is released after the intervention of Paul Éluard. He creates many works using the technique of decalcomany.

America 1941 – 1953

1941    Escapes to the USA with the help of Peggy Guggenheim. They travel to California, Arizona, New Mexico and New Orleans before getting married in December.

1941    Takes part in the First Papers of Surrealism exhibition staged by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp; publication of the magazine VVV. Meets the artist  Dorothea Tanning. Develops the technique of oscillation.

1943    Is divorced from Peggy Guggenheim. Spends the summer with Dorothea Tanning in Arizona.

1944    Max Ernst works in Great River, Long Island, creating a new series of sculptures.

1945    Writes the script for and acts in an episode in Hans Richter’s film Dreams That Money Can Buy.

1946    Moves with Dorothea Tanning to Sedona, Arizona, where they build a house. Double wedding ceremony in Beverly Hills: Max Ernst marries Dorothea Tanning, Man Ray marries Juliet Browner.

1947    The last major Surrealist exhibition is held at the Galerie Maeght in Paris.

1948    Starts working on the sculpture Capricorn. Robert Motherwell publishes Max Ernst. Beyond Painting, and Other Writings by Max Ernst and his Friends. Max Ernst becomes a US citizen. 

1950    Travels to Europe with Dorothea Tanning. Rents a studio in Paris.

1951    The first German retrospective of his work is shown in his birthplace Brühl on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

1952    Yves Tanguy visits Sedona. Max Ernst delivers a series of lectures in Honolulu.

Europe 1953 – 1976

1953    Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst return to France permanently. He works in the impasse Ronsin next to Constantin Brancusi’s studio. His poem Das Schnabelpaar, illustrated with eight lithographs, is published by Ernst Beyeler.

1954    Max Ernst is awarded the grand prize for painting at the 27th Venice Biennale. André Breton thereupon excludes him from the Surrealist group.

1955    Moves to Huismes near Chinon (Touraine) with Dorothea Tanning. First solo show at the Galerie Beyeler.

1956    Max Ernst becomes a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts. The Kunsthalle in Berne devotes him a retrospective.

1957    Max Ernst receives the grand prize for painting of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Renewed collaboration with film director Hans Richter for his film 8 x 8.

1958    Max Ernst becomes a French citizen. In September, 40 of his works are included in the exhibition DADA. Dokumente einer Bewegung in the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

1959 – 1962    Major retrospectives in Paris, New York, Chicago, London, Cologne and Zurich.

1963    Peter Schamoni makes a film about Max Ernst entitled Entdeckungfahrten ins Unbewusste (Journeys into the subconscious). Two years later he makes a film about Ernst’s life entitled Mein Vagabundieren – meine Unruhe (My vagabond years – my restlessness).

1964    Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning settle in the south of France (Seillans). He participates in documenta III.

1966    Becomes an officer of the Legion of Honour. Participates in exhibitions in Venice, Zurich and Berne. Meets Werner Spies.

1967    Creates colour etchings for a German edition of Samuel Beckett’s From an Abandoned Work. Produces jewellery for the Galerie Le Point Cardinal, exhibiting designs by Ernst, Arp, Derain, Hugo, Picasso, Tanning etc.

1968    Designs the set for Olivier Messiaen’s La Turangalîla at the Paris Opera.

1969/70    Major exhibitions in Stockholm, Amsterdam and Stuttgart. The rediscovered murals from Eaubonne are shown by François Petit in Paris.

1972    Awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bonn. Participates in documenta 5.

1974    Second one-man show at the Galerie Beyeler.

1975    Travels to New York for the major retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which later travels to the Grand Palais in Paris. Publication of the first two volumes of the catalogue raisonné of his work. Max Ernst falls ill.

1976    Max Ernst dies in Paris on 1 April, during the night preceding his 85th birthday. He is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery. The Kaiserring, the international German art prize of the town of Goslar, is awarded to him posthumously.