Van Gogh •
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Max Ernst, born in Bruhl, near Cologne, did not prepare for
a career in art but studied philosophy at Bonn from 1909 to 1911. His interest in contemporary art movements and in the works of Macke and Chirico led to his encounter with the Dada movement, begun in Zurich in 1916 by Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and other painters who revolted against the senseless killing in mass warfare. The term Dada, which is derived from a word children use meaning hobbyhorse, was chosen for its childish sound and meaning. Dada is a satiric form of art that takes any object and makes it art simply because the artist chooses to place it in a picture, gives it a satiric title, and creates a chance reality. Nothing is sacred in Dada and anything that stimulates the artist's imagination may be used. This stimulation of the artist's imagination led to Surrealism, a literary form of art that takes many of its ideas from psychoanalysis, and states that the dream of the artist may pass from his unconscious mind onto the canvas. In Paris, the poets André Breton and Paul Eluard led the Surrealist group, and Ernst joined them when he arrived in Paris in 1922.
To achieve dreamlike effects upon canvas, Ernst invented many techniques. One of these, first noted by Leonardo da Vinci, is that of observing strange shapes in natural objects. To achieve his fantastic and very imaginative dream landscapes, Ernst also made use of decalcomania, transferring oil paint to canvas from some rough surface by pressure; frottage, rubbing a piece of wood, stone, or metal; and collage, the pasting of pieces of paper or cloth to canvas. Ernst's imagination also led him to experiment with automatic writing, to write a collage novel, to collaborate on a Surrealist film, and to paint frescoes and theatrical sets. In 1941 he left Paris for New York where he rejoined Marcel Duchamp and eventually André Breton. The three men edited the Surrealist magazine, "VVV", from 1942 to 1945. After a period in Arizona, Ernst and his wife Dorothea Tanning, an American Surrealist in her own right, returned to Paris in 1949, where he continued to paint until his death.