The Influence of Max Ernst

I have quite a few artistic influences on my work.  We all do, both conscious and subconscious.  My chief influence had been newspaper comic strips.  Some of you may recall my previous post describing how Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame was an inspiration to me.  I’ll talk in depth in the future how newspaper comics influenced me, but this post is meant to go in another direction.  There comes a time where you may have to expand your range of influences – otherwise, you could risk your work growing stagnant or even failing to grow at all.  I eventually had to look into the world of fine art for more inspiration and during my research, I discovered the work of Max Ernst.

Ernst (1891-1976) was a German painter associated with the artistic movements of Dada and surrealism.  While he did a number of oil paintings, he’s probably better known for his collage work.

Ubu Imperator, Oil on Canvas, 1923

This is an example of one of Ernst’s paintings.  The Surrealist movement liked to draw upon their subconscious and are frequently known for depicting elements of the bizarre, the grotesque and the fantastic in their work.Like Ernst, I like to draw upon my subconscious and tend to trust my intuition in creating my images.  But the biggest influence he had on me was his best known work, A Week of Kindness or as it’s known in French, Un Semaine De Bonte .

This creation is a book.  It’s a collage novel where Ernst took images from old Victorian storybooks, catalogs, and encyclopedias and reworked them into 182 images of the bizarre.  Published in 1934, this work was done in just three weeks.  The images themselves are quite flawless as we can’t see where they’ve been pasted onto the page and this is YEARS before computers and Photoshop came along.

A Week of Kindness Sample Page

This book came to my attention originally in Scott McCloud’s famous book Understanding Comics.  There is no real story to Ernst’s work, but it’s meant to be viewed in sequence.  In a way, this can be considered an early graphic novel YEARS before material like Art Spiegelman’s Maus or Will Eisner’s A Contract With God.

This book inspired me to do my own artist’s book.  I am actually in the process of doing so.  Those images of CG, my squirrel pin-up girl, will be collected into a book and Ernst’s own collage novel was the inspiration to do that.

That’s it for this blog post.  Feel free to leave comments or questions here.  Subscribe to the RSS feed or email if you haven’t already.

DISCLAIMER: The above images were taken from Wikipedia and are intended for illustrative purposes only.  No copyright infringement is intended as I’m NOT claiming those above pieces as my work.

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3 Responses to “The Influence of Max Ernst”

  1. Max Ernst Video « The Art of Max West Says:

    […] talked about how Max Ernst was influential on my work in a previous post .  His best known work was his collage novel (and ancestor to the modern graphic novel) Un Semaine […]

  2. David Halliday Says:

    I’ve been running into Ernst’s work for years. It has had (like George Grosz) a subliminal affect on my work. Good stuff.

    • maxwest Says:

      Thanks a lot for commenting. The Surrealists are a neat source of inspiration since they liked to draw upon their subconscious. I wonder what would happen if more creative people tried that.


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