Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ernst, Max

(1891-1976) German artist and critic, resident in Paris for most of his career, active and influential from about 1910. During and after World War I, which had a profound effect upon him, he was involved in the Dada movement, and was influential in the artistic ferment that finally resulted, circa 1924, in full-blown Surrealism; he contributed to the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925, and illustrated a number of texts by Surrealist writers like Paul Éluard (1895-1952) and André Breton (1896-1966). As fully as René Magritte, he incorporated a narrative syntax into his visual work: an urgent "and then ..." haunts his depictions of the Landscapes of Dream. It is probably for this reason that his work has been used so effectively for pictorial covers and illustrations for tales of the fantastic, especially by novelists intimate with surrealism like J G Ballard, whose The Crystal World (1966) has an Ernst cover for its UK edition, or Alan Burns (1929-2013), whose Europe After the Rain (1967) is illustrated by, and named after, an Ernst painting. In paintings like this, Anachronism and Time Abyss meet in a landscape which seems to incorporate – and to be about to move into – any tense of storytelling; they seem to enfold past, present and future in one sight. But they are not Uncanny: however estranged ME's worlds may seem, they are fully embodied. ME is important to fantasy in particular because his landscapes, which are impossible, seem real. Stories can wind through them.

ME's Graphic Novels include: La femme 100 têtes ["The 100-Headless Woman"] (graph 1929), a novel in 147 pictures, with captions; Rêve d'une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel ["Dream of a Little Girl who Wanted to be a Carmelite Nun"] (graph 1930), 79 pictures with captions; Une semaine de bonté, ou Les sept éléments capitaus ["A Week of Kindness, or The Seven Deadly Elements"] (graph 1934 in 5 vols; trans Stanley Applebaum as Une Semaine de Bonté: A Surrealistic Novel in Collage 1976 US), 182 pictures with captions; and Les chiens ont soif ["The Dogs are Thirsty"] (graph 1964), text by Jacques Prévert, 33 pictures. These works are funny, gravid with implications, sexy, and full of a mocking element of the non sequitur. Their style is imitated, modestly, by Jocelyn Brooke (1908-1966) in The Crisis in Bulgaria; Or Ibsen to the Rescue! (graph 1956).

Many books have been written about ME. Max Ernst (1984) by Edward Quinn, copiously illustrated, was begun in collaboration with the artist. [JC]

Max Ernst


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.