Max Ernst Paintings

Max Ernst Paintings – The 10 Most Notable Works of Art

Max Ernst, a luminary of Surrealism, wields his paintbrush like a conjurer, breathing life into dreams and nightmares alike. With a kaleidoscopic palette and a boundless imagination, Ernst’s canvases transport viewers to realms where the ordinary dissolves into the extraordinary. From his enigmatic landscapes to his provocative explorations of the subconscious, Ernst’s paintings resonate with a profound sense of mystery and wonder. As we journey through the labyrinthine corridors of his art, we are beckoned to confront the uncanny, the irrational, and the fantastical, inviting us to ponder the depths of human experience and the infinite possibilities of the creative mind.



The Top 10 Max Ernst Paintings to Know

Embark on a journey through the visionary landscapes and surreal dreamscapes of Max Ernst’s most iconic works. From the haunting allure of The Elephants to the whimsical intricacies of The Robing of the Bride, this curated selection showcases the breadth and depth of Ernst’s imaginative genius. Prepare to be captivated by a whirlwind of symbolism, emotion, and the inexhaustible power of artistic exploration in these top Max Ernst paintings ever created.

Early Max Ernst Paintings Max Ernst (1968); See page for author, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


The Hat Makes the Man (1920)

Dimensions (cm)Not available
Where Is It Housed?Private collection

The Hat Makes the Man (1920) marks a pivotal moment in Max Ernst’s artistic evolution as he delves into the anarchic realms of Dadaism. With its bold collage technique and jarring juxtaposition of disparate elements, the artwork challenges conventional notions of identity and reality.

Through the enigmatic imagery of hats and fragmented faces, Ernst invites viewers into a disorienting yet compelling exploration of the self and the absurdity of human existence.

Discover Max Ernst Paintings Sculptural Rendition of Max Ernst’s The Hat Makes the Man (2004 – 2005) by Damien Hirst; Amanda Slater, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Flikr


The Elephant Celebes (1921)

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)114.6 × 88.9
Where Is It Housed?Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom

In The Elephant Celebes (1921), Ernst crafts a surreal dreamscape where the boundaries between the conscious and subconscious blur. The central figure of the elephant, rendered in a disjointed and abstract manner, serves as a symbol of mystery and intrigue. Surrounding it, a cast of surreal characters and objects dance in a fantastical spectacle.

This invites viewers to decipher the cryptic narrative hidden within the canvas.


Woman, Old Man and Flower Femme (1923)

Date 1923
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)130 × 97
Where Is It Housed?Private collection

Woman, Old Man and Flower Femme (1923) reveals Ernst’s fascination with the interplay between human forms and natural elements. The painting unfolds like a dream, with its figures morphing and merging into the landscape around them. Through his unique blend of symbolism and abstraction, Ernst explores themes of transformation and metamorphosis.

He invites viewers to contemplate the fluidity of identity and the eternal cycle of life and death.


Pietà or Revolution by Night (1923)

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)54.9 × 38.1
Where Is It Housed?The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, United States

Pietà or Revolution by Night (1923) stands as a haunting meditation on the aftermath of war and social upheaval. In this enigmatic composition, Ernst presents a surreal vision of grief and despair, with fragmented figures contorted in anguish. Through his use of symbolic imagery and stark contrasts, Ernst evokes a sense of profound existential angst.

He captures the tumultuous spirit of post-war Europe.

Famous Max Ernst Paintings Pietà or Revolution by Night (1923) by Max Ernst; Pierre Doyen, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, via Flikr


Ubu Imperator (1923)

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)130.2 × 89.5
Where Is It Housed?Private collection

Ubu Imperator (1923) emerges as a scathing critique of authoritarianism and the abuse of power. Drawing inspiration from Alfred Jarry’s infamous character, Ernst transforms Ubu into a grotesque and tyrannical figure. Through his bold and satirical imagery, Ernst exposes the absurdity of authority.

He invites viewers to confront the oppressive forces that shape society.

Best Max Ernst Paintings Ubu Imperator (1923) by Max Ernst; Fred Romero, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, via Flikr


Forest and Dove (1927)

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)73.7 × 54.6
Where Is It Housed?Private collection

Forest and Dove (1927) unveils a serene and mystical tableau, where the natural world converges with the spiritual realm. Through a delicate interplay of light and shadow, Ernst creates a sense of ethereal tranquility within the forest setting. The presence of the dove, a symbol of peace and renewal, imbues the scene with a sense of hope and transcendence.

He is inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the beauty and serenity of the natural world.

Later Max Ernst Paintings Forest and Dove (1927) by Max Ernst; TreeMappa 2.0, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, via Flikr


The Robing of the Bride (1940)

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)92.1 × 73.7
Where Is It Housed?Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom

The Robing of the Bride (1940) mesmerizes with its intricate symbolism and dreamlike imagery, embodying Ernst’s fascination with the unconscious mind. Against a backdrop of swirling patterns and mysterious landscapes, the figure of the bride emerges, veiled in layers of enigma and desire. Through his masterful manipulation of form and color, Ernst invites viewers into a surreal realm where fantasy and reality intertwine.

By doing this, he is beckoning them to explore the depths of the human psyche.


Europe after the Rain II (1940 – 1942)

Date1940 – 1942
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)208.6 × 308.6
Where Is It Housed?The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Connecticut, United States

Europe after the Rain II (1940 – 1942) stands as a haunting testament to the ravages of war and the fragility of human civilization. In this apocalyptic landscape, Ernst conjures a vision of desolation and despair, where the remnants of a once-thriving world lie in ruins. Through his stark and surreal imagery, Ernst confronts viewers with the harrowing realities of conflict and destruction.

He challenges them to contemplate the fragility of peace and the resilience of the human spirit.


Napoleon in the Wilderness (1941)

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)91.4 × 73.7
Where Is It Housed?Private collection

Napoleon in the Wilderness (1941) offers a poignant reflection on power, isolation, and the existential plight of the individual. Against a barren and desolate landscape, Napoleon stands as a solitary figure, his imposing presence juxtaposed against the vast emptiness of the wilderness.

Through his introspective portrayal of the iconic historical figure, Ernst invites viewers to ponder the complexities of ambition, hubris, and the search for meaning in a world devoid of certainty.


The Triumph of Surrealism (1973)

MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions (cm)Not available
Where Is It Housed?Private collection

The Triumph of Surrealism (1973) serves as a triumphant culmination of Ernst’s lifelong exploration of the surreal. Through a mesmerizing array of symbolic motifs and dreamlike imagery, Ernst celebrates the boundless power of the imagination to transcend the constraints of reality. In this exuberant homage to Surrealism, Ernst invites viewers to embrace the whimsical, the absurd, and the fantastical, as they embark on a journey through the kaleidoscopic landscapes of the unconscious mind.


Max Ernst’s paintings stand as testaments to the boundless potential of artistic expression. Through his visionary works, Ernst shattered the constraints of reality, inviting us into a realm where the surreal reigns supreme. With each brushstroke, he unfurled the hidden recesses of the mind, challenging our perceptions and beckoning us to explore the labyrinthine depths of the human psyche. As we bid farewell to his canvases, we carry with us not only the lingering echoes of his fantastical worlds but also a renewed appreciation for the transformative power of art. Max Ernst’s legacy endures as a beacon of imagination, inspiring generations to embrace the enigmatic and embrace the unknown on the canvas of life.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Are Some Key Themes Explored in Max Ernst’s Paintings?

Max Ernst’s paintings often explore themes such as dreams, the subconscious, mythology, and the human condition. His works frequently feature surreal landscapes, bizarre creatures, and enigmatic symbolism, inviting viewers to delve into the depths of the imagination and the mysteries of the psyche.


What Techniques Did Max Ernst Use in His Paintings?

Max Ernst employed a variety of innovative techniques in his paintings, including frottage (rubbing textured surfaces), grattage (scraping paint across surfaces), and decalcomania (pressing paint between surfaces). These experimental methods allowed Ernst to tap into the subconscious and create richly textured, dreamlike imagery characteristic of Surrealism.


What Is the Significance of Max Ernst’s Legacy in the Art World?

Max Ernst’s legacy looms large in the art world as a pioneering force in Surrealism and avant-garde art. His groundbreaking techniques and visionary imagery continue to inspire generations of artists to explore the boundless possibilities of the creative process. Ernst’s work remains a testament to the enduring power of art to challenge, provoke, and transform our understanding of the world.


Cite this Article

Isabella, Meyer, “Max Ernst Paintings – The 10 Most Notable Works of Art.” Art in Context. March 13, 2024. URL:

Meyer, I. (2024, 13 March). Max Ernst Paintings – The 10 Most Notable Works of Art. Art in Context.

Meyer, Isabella. “Max Ernst Paintings – The 10 Most Notable Works of Art.” Art in Context, March 13, 2024.

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