Max is mobilized. Provincial artillery. Four months in the barracks
and out you get! In deep shit for the next four years.
Max Ernst; Ecritures 25
After the armistice Max is demobilized. He stayed in Cologne where
he opened a Maison Dada. At the same time Max established contacts
with the subversive underground of Munich, Berlin and Zurich....The
Dadaists had in common the will to pitilessly denounce the infernal
condition that the patriotic idiots, sustained by human stupidity, have
imposed on the epoch in which they were condemned to live.
Max Ernst; Ecritures 28
The 2nd of April (1891) at 9:45 a.m. Max Ernst had his first contact with the sensible world, when he came out of the egg which his mother had laid in an eagle's nest and which the bird had brooded for seven years."
Eleven thousand virgins gave up their lives in Cologne rather than give up chastity. Their gracious skulls and bones embellish the walls of the convent-church in Bruehl, the same one where little Max was forced to pass the most boring hours of his childhood. Maybe their company was helpful to him.
...five year old Max escaped from his parents' house. Blue-eyed, blond-curly-haired, dressed in a red night shirt, carrying a whip in the left hand, he walked in the middle of a pilgrims' procession. Enchanted by this charming child and believing it was the vision of an angel or even the infant of the virgin, the pilgrims proclaimed "Look, little Jesus Christ." After a mile or so little Jesus Christ escaped from the procession...
To appease father's fury, when the next day a policeman brought him home, little Max proclaimed that he was sure he was little Jesus Christ. This candid remark inspired the father to make a portrait of his son as a little Jesus-child, blue-eyed, blond-curly-haired, dressed in a red night shirt, blessing the world with the right hand and bearing the cross--instead of the whip--in his left. Little Max, slightly flattered by this image, had however some difficulty in throwing off the suspicion that daddy took secret pleasure in the idea of being God-the-Father, and that the hidden reason of this picture was a blasphemous pretension. Maybe Max Ernst's picture "Souvenir de Dieu" (1923) has a direct connection with the remembrance of this fact.
(1897) First contact with nothingness, when his sister Maria kissed him and her sisters good-bye and died a few hours afterwards. Since this event the feeling of nothingness and annihilating powers were predominant in his mind, in his behavior and, later, in his work.
(1897) First contact with hallucination. Measles. Fear of death and the annihilating powers. A fever-vision provoked by an imitation- mahogany opposite his bed, the grooves of the wood taking respectively the aspect of an eye, a nose, a bird's head, a menacing nightingale, a spinning top and so on. Certainly little Max took pleasure in being afraid of these visions and later delivered himself voluntarily to provoke hallucinations of the same kind in looking obstinately at wood-panels, clouds,wallpapers, unplastered walls and so on to let his "imagination" go. When someone would ask him: "What is your favorite occupation?" he regularly answers, "Looking."
(1906) First contact with occult, magic and witchcraft powers. One of his best friends, a most intelligent and affectionate pink cockatoo, died in the night of January the 5th. It was an awful shock to Max when he found the corpse in the morning and when at the same moment,his father announced to him the birth of sister Loni. The perturbation of the youth was so enormous that he fainted. In his imagination he connected both events and charged the baby with the extinction of the bird's life. A series of mystical crises, fits of hysteria, exaltations and depressions followed. A dangerous confusion between birds and humans became encrusted in his mind and asserted itself in drawings and paintings.
On one occasion father Ernst omitted a tree from one of his
landscapes. This was an embarrassment, and he went back to the forest
to saw down the tree in question.
Wayne Andrews; The Surrealist Parade
During the war he had served in an artillery unit of the German
Army, but had shown himself so insubordinate to discipline that he had
narrowly escaped military trial. Paul Eluard said: "Though we were not
acquainted with each other, Max and I were at Verdun together and
used to shoot at each other."
Matthew Josephson; Life Among the Surrealists