Perhaps better appreciated by art historians than by many in the general public, Max Ernst (1891 – 1976) has remained an important influence in the art world to the present day. His body of work was recently the subject of a major retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland which included over 160 paintings, collages, drawings, sculptures, and illustrated books (May – September, 2013). An earlier show, equally comprehensive and also including illustrated books, was organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2005.
Ernst was born in Germany, studied philosophy at the University of Bonn, and became involved with German avant garde art movements, in particular with the Rhineland Expressionists in Bonn and with Dada in Cologne. He moved to France after World War I where he was influenced by the work of Cézanne, Picasso, Van Gogh, Delaunay, and Jean Arp, the last of whom became a life-long friend. He continued his experimentation with Dada in Paris but quickly became interested in Surrealism, a movement with which he is still associated. His first solo show in Paris was at the Galerie au Sans Pareil.
Ernst had a long and continuing interest in the artist’s book. In Paris in 1925 he produced his first frottages, or rubbings made on paper placed on an uneven underlying surface and used them in his book Histoire Naturelle (1926). He produced his first collage-novel, La Femme 100 Têtes, in1929. This genre, pioneered by Ernst, combines illustrations from nineteenth and early twentieth century pulp novels, periodicals, mail order catalogues, etc., into an associative sequence that is placed by the artist into a case-bound codex. It is essentially an early graphic novel but far more oblique with respect to its intended meaning. His Une Semaine de Bonté (1934), another collage novel, is generally cited as one of the most important livres d’artistes of the twentieth century.
After World War II, Ernst continued his work with artist’s books, and before his death in Paris in 1976 he produced or contributed to over thirty separate editions.
Books with Max Ernst available from Boreas Fine Art:
[ Ernst, Max ] Prévert, Jacques. Les Chiens Ont Soif. Paris: Au Pont des Arts. 1964.
Ernst, Max. Le Musée de l’Homme suivi de Pêche au Soleil Levant. [Paris]: Galerie Alexandre Iolas. 1965.
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