German-born Max Ernst (1891-1976) juggles with meaning in ways which he artfully and provocatively compiles from existing images. With scissors and a pocket knife he has created brilliant collages realised through cutouts from textbooks and old magazines. André Breton has referred to them as "business cards from a wizard”. In his modest literary oeuvre Ernst played with words and images, many of his book illustrations have that surreal touch which of him we know so well. Furthermore, Ernst’s frottages present and give shape to a fantastic unique world.
Ernst was an innovative artist who mined his unconscious for dreamlike imagery that mocked social conventions. His vision of the modern world as irrational became the basis of his art. Ernst's humor and verve come through strongly in his Dada and Surrealists works and as a result he was a pioneer of both movements. His work with the unconscious, his social commentary, and broad experimentation in both subject and technique remain influential to this day.
Since the beginning of the seventies Manfred Schmidt has been collecting illustrated books, artist books, graphics and works on paper. For a second time, the Van Abbemuseum library is lucky enough to show a selection from this diverse private collection. In 2015 there was an exhibition of works on paper by the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers and now we selected an assortment of books and graphic works by Max Ernst.