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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Deep thinking and creative, Max Ernst had all the attributes necessary to produce an extraordinary oeuvre of Surrealist paintings and sculptures. This section focuses on famous quotes from his life and career.

Famous Quotes by Max Ernst

All good ideas arrive by chance.

And Loplop, bird superior, has transformed himself into flesh without flesh and will dwell among us.

Art has nothing to do with taste. Art is not there to be tasted.

A series of powers are at work within the great stream of Expressionism who have no outward similarity to one another but a common direction of thrust, namely the intention to give expression to things of the psyche [Seelisches] through form alone.

Before he goes into the water, a diver cannot know what he will bring back.

Collage is a supersensitive and scrupulously accurate instrument, similar to a seismograph, which is able to record the exact amount of the possibility of human happiness at any period.

Collage is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them.

Creativity is that marvellous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition.

Every normal human being (and not merely the 'artist') has an inexhaustible store of buried images in his subconscious, it is merely a matter of courage or liberating procedures ... of voyages into the unconscious, to bring pure and unadulterated found objects to light.

He who speaks of collage speaks of the irrational.

I have never seen a beautiful painting of a beautiful woman. But you can take an ugly woman and make a beautiful painting of her. It is the painting itself that should be beautiful.

I succeeded in simply attending at the birth of all my works.

My paintings are not meant to be tasted.

Painting is not for me either decorative amusement, or the plastic invention of felt reality; it must be every time: invention, discovery, revelation.

The artist is a spectator, indifferent or impassioned, at the birth of his work, and observes the phases of its development.

The role of the painter... is to project that which sees itself in him.

The virtue of pride, which was once the beauty of mankind, has given place to that fount of ugliness, Christian humility.

When the artist finds himself he is lost. The fact that he has succeeded in never finding himself is regarded by Max Ernst as his only lasting achievement.

Who made art history? Not the most reasonable people. The mad men did. If painting is the mirror of a time, it must be mad to have a true image of what that time is. To one madness we oppose another madness.

Woman's nudity is wiser than the philosopher's teachings.

Quotes about Max Ernst by Famous Artists and Art Historians

The Dada movement was an anti-movement which corresponded to a need born of the first World War.. .Max Ernst's activities in Cologne in 1917 made him the foremost representative of the Dada painters. Between 1919 and 1921 his paintings, drawings and collages depicting the world of the subconscious were already a foretaste of Surrealism.. .In fact his previous achievements had certainly influenced, to a great extent, the literary Surrealist exploration of the subconscious.

Marcel Duchamp

The painter should not just paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself. If he sees nothing in himself, however, then he should forebear to paint what he sees before him.

Caspar David Friedrich, highlighted by Ernst as encapsulating his own mindset

Max Ernst is above all an artist in the limited sense-a man who paints with taste and sensibility. He used these gifts to convey his vision-his symbolic vision-just as Blake used his poetic sensibility to convey his symbolic vision. After a century or so we have arrived at the point of accepting the genius of Blake; in the same mood we should be able to accept instantly the comparable genius of Ernst.

Herbert Read

German-born Max Ernst was a provocateur, a shocking and innovative artist who mined his unconscious for dreamlike imagery that mocked social conventions. A soldier in World War I, 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.