Max Ernst (Maximilian Maria Ernst) was born in Bruhl, a place near Cologne, in Germany. He was raised in a strict Catholic family, and both of his parents were disciplinarians who were dedicated to training their children into God-fearing and talented individuals.
Although his father was deaf, Ernst learned so much from him, particularly when it comes to painting. In fact, much of his early years were lived under the inspiration of his father who was also a teacher. He was the one who introduced painting to Ernst at an early age.
In 1914, Ernst attended the University of Bonn where he studied philosophy. However, he eventually dropped out of school because he was more interested in the arts. He claimed that his primary sources of interest included anything that had something to do with painting. Moreover, he became fascinated with psychology, among other subjects in school.
Primarily, Ernst’s love for painting was the main reason why he became deeply interested with this craft and decided to pursue it later on in his life. During his early years, he became familiar with the works of some of the greatest artists of all time including Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh. He was also drawn to themes such as fantasy and dream imagery, which were among the common subjects of the works of Giorgio de Chirico.
During World War I, Ernst was forced to join the German Army, and he became a part of the artillery division that exposed him greatly to the drama of warfare. A soldier in the War, Ernst emerged deeply traumatized and highly critical of western culture. These charged sentiments directly fed into his vision of the modern world as irrational, an idea that became the basis of his artwork. Ernst’s artistic vision, along with his humor and verve come through strongly in his Dada and Surrealists works; Ernst was a pioneer of both movements.
It was Ernst’s memories of the war and his childhood that helps him create absurd, yet interesting scenes in his artworks. Soon, he took his passion for the arts seriously when he returned to Germany after the war. With Jean Arp, a poet and artist, Ernst formed a group for artists in Cologne. He also developed a close relationship with fellow artists in Paris who propagated Avant-Garde artworks.