Max Ernst was a German painter, sculptor and printmaker born in 1891, one of the leading artists in the Dada and Surrealist movements. He originally began to study philosophy at the University of Bonn in 1909 but became distracted by painting. Influenced by Giorgio de Chirico, he became interested in dream imagery and founded a Dada group.
His work was provocative and satirical of social conventions, influenced by his cynical post-war views of western culture after being a soldier in the First World War. Ernst’s work created a social commentary and challenged artistic traditions. In 1925 he discovered the technique ‘frottage’, which is obtaining an impression of a textured surface by placing paper over the surface and rubbing with a soft pencil. The texture allowed Ernst to find hallucinatory visuals in the texture.
Ernst was interested in using mental illness as an accessory to create art inspired by raw emotion. He was one of the first artists to use Sigmund Freud’s dream theories to experiment with his creativity. He intended to access his subconscious and to paint freely. This technique is also known as automatic painting and was central to Ernst’s surrealists works. Later this would influence the Abstract Expressionists.