Max Ernst in Europe
Coming Home and Late Recognition

In 1950, two retrospective exhibitions of Max Ernst’s art were shown in Paris. But the critics and the public were not receptive to his work, with its varied styles. Moreover, the fashion at the time was informal art and existentialism.

Max Ernst.Naissance d´une galaxie, 1969

Max Ernst

Naissance d´une galaxie, 1969

© Max Ernst/BUS 2008
Beyeler Collection, Basel



Max Ernst moved back to Europe in 1953 and settled in France. At first, he lived in Paris, then in Huismes, Touraine, and finally in Seillans. His works from this period include Le printemps à Paris (Spring in Paris) and Vater Rhein (Father Rhine). The latter is an imaginary vision of a river god, combining cyclical nature, memories and legends, landscape and portrait. Ernst was awarded the grand prize for painting at the Venice Biennale in 1954. This had two consequences: his final exclusion from the surrealist group, but also international recognition that led to numerous solo exhibitions.

Graphic art gradually formed a large part of his production. The portfolio Maximiliana ou l’exercise illégal de l’astronomie (Maximiliana, or the Illegal Practice of Astronomy), dating from 1964, is a tribute to the forgotten 19th century German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel who calculated the return of comets and discovered a large number of stars and the planet Maximiliana which the title refers to.

Max Ernst.Le grand génie, 1976

Max Ernst

Le grand génie, 1976

© Max Ernst/BUS 2008
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk
Photo: Brøndum & Co./ Poul Buchard


Max Ernst also intentionally returned to, extended and modified earlier themes, and added yet another facet to his œuvre. Using exact, straight or curved contours, he reduced his works into simple shapes and characterisations of his figures.

In his works from the late 1950s and onwards, Max Ernst focused on nature and the forces of life. The cosmic imagery approaches that which is most distant, the infinity of space. Max Ernst presents the seemingly simple yet complex galaxies, possible worlds and parallel worlds that lie beyond our wildest imagination.