Born in 1891 in Bruhl, Germany; died in 1976 in Paris, France.
Between 1909 and 1914 Ernst studied philosophy in Bonn and started to paint under the German avant-garde movements. In 1912, he founded, together with August Macke, the group Das Junge Rheinland, exhibiting for the first time in Cologne, where with J. Th. Baargeld and H. Arp, in 1918 they formed the Dadaist group. From 1922 he lived in Paris, where he became a leading figure of the Surrealist movement. He illustrates the poems of P. Éluard, he contributes to the magazine Littérature and performs, with Breton, Crevel, Eluard, and Picabia, the first experiments of automatic writing from which he creates in the second half of the 1920s the frottages and collages series. Between 1929 and 1935, he realised the collage-novels which are among the most representative works of Surrealist art. In 1938-39, he created the sculptures and frescoes at his home in Saint-Martin d’Ardèche (Avignon). At the outbreak of World War II he was interned in a concentration camp until 1941, when he fled to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim. In the United States he becomes close with other Surrealists artists and he paints his great masterpieces: Europe after the Rain II (1940-42, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford), Napoleon in the Wilderness (1941, New York, Museum of Modern Art), Euclid (1945, Houston, Menil Foundation). He created one of the most significant sculptures, the monumental Capricorne group for his house in Sedona (Arizona), in 1948. Having moved back to Paris in 1949, he continues his research by painting compositions in which elements of intellectualistic surrealism are combined in a poetic manner. In 1954, he was awarded the Grand Prize for painting at Venice Biennale.