Max Ernst was born on 2 April 1891 in Brühl, near Cologne, and studied philosophy at the Bonn university (1909 - 1911). He never had any formal artistic training, but exhibited at the First German Autumn Saloon "Sturm" in Berlin in 1913. In the same year he went to Paris for the first time and discovered the work of Picasso and de Chirico. In 1914 he met Hans Arp at the "Werkbund" exhibition in Cologne.
In 1919 he founded the Cologne Dada group with Arp and Johannes Theodor Baargeld, and collaborated with Arp in the creation of the "Fatagaga" collages ("Fatagaga" = "Fabrication de tableaux garantis gazométriques" = "Manufacture of guaranteed gasometric pictures"). He was co-editor of Dada W3 and Schammade, and organized the Dada exhibition in the "Brauhaus Winter" which was closed by the police as being contrary to "morals".
Ernst went on to contribute to many Dadaist publications. He then took an active part in the founding of surrealism and became one of the leading surrealist painters.
He moved to New York in 1942 and lived both there and in Sedona, Arizona, until his return to France in 1954. He died in 1976.