In album: Max ERNEST Self-Portrait Abstract

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Youth Max ERNEST Self-Portrait Abstract
"The Wander Life"

Long before Max Ernst ever laid eyes on the fantastic landscapes of the Sedona desert in Arizona, he had already dreamed of it in his paintings. Persecuted in France for being German and by Nazi Germans for being anti-Nazi, Ernst was forced to leave Europe during World War II, not without having spent a bit of time at a French prison camp.

It was American heir Peggy Guggenheim who hauled Ernst and the bulk of his paintings across the Atlantic to the safety of of America. Max who would soon fall in love with -and marry- the painter Dorothea Tanning, was not looking to settle down in Arizona; it was more like Sedona found him.

As Ernst and his wife were travelling by car all the way from New York to California, they crossed the Sedona desert and Max was fascinated to find that what he had painted in his works was alive there, away from all the madding crowds. There were no resorts in Sedona at the time, no homes in the area, and it was insane to think of living there, in the middle of the desert, but Max decided that he had to build a house right there, by the side of the landscapes that had inspired him, before he even knew they existed.

The story is told by the protagonists themselves, as portrayed in Peter Schamoni’s excellent film about Ernst:

Needless to say, there were no hotels to speak of around Sedona, Arizona then; so Max and Dorothea just had to load their car with everything they needed and come back to start building the house of their dreams.

Ernst always turned the houses he lived in into works of art: he sculpted strange creatures all around his house in the South of France, he painted frescos on all the walls of Paul Eluard’s home while he stayed there, and the Sedona, Arizona home was no exception. Max made huge sculptures that adorned the yard and he enjoyed one of the most productive periods in his life while he was there.

Visiting the houses of Max Ernst in France and in Sedona is something I would recommend to anybody remotely interested in Art. As a matter of fact, I have been chasing them for some years now, still without success; but I know that I will see them one day.

One of my favorite, perhaps my all-time favorite Max Ernst painting is in fact EUROPA NACH DEM REGEN (Europe after the rain), which is a painting inspired by the destruction of the Second world war in Europe, that deeply prefigures the Sedona landscapes Max would later encounter.

Max Ernst's painting Europe after the rain features unreal mountains and towers made up of human skulls and bones
Ernst’s imagined landscapes

The real Sedona
Whether we attribute Max’s discovery to a prophetic gift, which as we can see from his words on the video, he was very reluctant to do, or not; one cannot stop thinking that this was a sort of magical encounter between an artist and one special corner of the Earth that could provide the best environment for the creation of his art.

Ever since the times of Ernst’s life, Sedona has greatly changed. There are now some great hotels there, and the good thing is that their architecture has been designed to blend in with the surrounding landscape. Such is the case of the beautiful Hyatt Pinion Pointe, to name just one among the many inns and motels with fantastic views abundant in the area.

If you are interested in visiting Sedona, check out this story. Learn more about Max and Dorothea´s love story on this article by The Guardian.

Other than a visit to Sedona, I can also recommend taking an interest in Ernst himself. An artist who never surrendered to politics or dogma, Ernst is not only an icon of painting but also of independent thought. To learn more about Max and enjoy more of his art I recommend my favorite book on him, which was published on the ocassion of the 100th anniversary of his birth: Max Ernst: A retrospective (

January 23, 2010 Ayanna Nahmias
Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:27 PM EDT, 23 January 2010

German-born painter, print maker, collagist, and sculptor who became an American citizen in 1948 and a French citizen in 1958, one of the major figures of Dada and even more so of Surrealism. He studied philosophy and psychology at Bonn University, but he became fascinated by the art of psychotics (he visited the insane as part of his studies) and neglected academic work for painting.

After serving in the First World War he became with Arp (his lifelong friend) the leader of the Dada movement in Cologne. In 1920 he organized one of Dada's most famous exhibitions in the conservatory of a restaurant there: visitors entered through the lavatories, and axes were provided so they could smash the exhibits if they felt so inclined. In 1922 Ernst settled in Paris, where he joined the Surrealist movement on its formation in 1924. Even before then, however, he had painted works that are regarded as Surrealist masterpieces, such as Celebes (1921, Tate, London), in which an elephant is transposed into a strange mechanistic monster.

The irrational and whimsical imagery seen here, in part inspired by childhood memories, occurs also in his highly original collages. In them he rearranged parts of banal engravings from sources such as trade catalogues and technical journals to create strange and startling scenes, showing, for example, a child with a severed head in her lap where a doll might be expected.

He also arranged series of such illustrations with accompanying captions to form ‘collage novels’: the best-known and most ambitious is Une semaine de bonté (A Week of Kindness), published in Paris in 1934. Another imaginative technique of which he was a leading exponent was frottage, which he invented in 1925. In 1930 he appeared in the Surrealist film L'Âge d'or, created by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, and in 1935 he made his first sculpture (he worked seriously but intermittently in this field, characteristically creating totemic-like figures in bronze) (


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