Born into the bourgeoisie of Cologne in 1891, Ernst studied philosophy, history of art and psychiatry at the University of Bonn. He received no formal artistic training and yet, by 1913, his masterful, self-taught, Expressionist-Cubist paintings were being exhibited at the seminal Post-Impressionist Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon show in Berlin.
When war broke out in 1914, he served in the German Army. His experiences would traumatise him for life and mark a turning point in his art; when peace fell, he rejected the bourgeois conventions of German art and threw himself into the burgeoning revolution of Dada and Surrealism, producing superb Surrealist collages and paintings such as Celebes (1921).
In 1922, Ernst moved to Paris and, by 1926, had become one of the Surrealists’ leading lights, following his collaboration with Joan Miró on the design for Diaghilev’s production of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (1926).
Over the next two decades, with paintings such as La Femme 100 Têtes (1929) and The Angel of Hearth and Home (1937), he became internationally renowned, exhibiting in New York, London and Paris. Ernst reinvented his artistic techniques constantly throughout his career, experimenting with collage, frottage (rubbing), grattage (scraping), oscillation, dripping and decalcomania.
After his affair with Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington ended in her breakdown, and Europe fell to Hitler, Ernst fled France for New York. There, he married gallery owner and art patron Peggy Guggenheim, before leaving her for the artist Dorothea Tanning. Ernst would remain with Tanning until his death in 1976.
During the war years and in exile, Ernst produced some of the most important artworks of the 20th century, such as Robing of the Bride (1939–41) and Europe after the Rain (1940–42). In 2022, his powerful sculpture, Le roi jouant avec la reine (1944), achieved $24.4 million at Christie’s New York, a world auction record for the artist.
Jeune homme traversant une rivière prenant par la main une jeune fille et en bousculant une autre