Max Ernst was a painter, draughtsman, sculptor and inventor of new artistic techniques. In his search for possibilities for expression, especially the promotion of Surrealism following a "renunciation of the primacy of logic, a thought diktat without any control of reason” proved to point the way ahead, through which a play of thoughts similar to that of dreams and hallucinations was to be achieved.
Max Ernst designed many of his paintings through frottage, for example, his Histoire Naturelle, in which he rubbed a variety of textures from materials, like, for example, wooden boards, leaves and straw onto a sheet of paper with a pencil and used this as the starting point for many representational associations and interpretations.
He used collage for his collage novel “Une semaine de bonté”. To this purpose, he cut up illustrations from old books and combined the fragments to create new, mysterious worlds.
In his search for new technical possibilities for avoiding the direct application of paint, Max Ernst developed grattage. With this technique, a canvas is painted with many layers of paint and then laid over a rough fabric or other objects. The paint is scraped off again with a scraper, so that a pattern of the objects beneath becomes visible.
Other paintings originated with the blot or decalcomania process. In this process, thinly applied oil paint is pressed flat onto the canvas with a pane of glass or a sheet of paper. When lifted, random
bubbles and branches result in a variety of surface textures, which Max Ernst used as inspiration for finding forms and elaborating landscapes, figures and monsters from them.
For his sculptures, Max Ernst used everyday objects like egg cartons, pots, rolls of yarn and wire, applied them as cast forms and transformed their meaning through his sometimes imaginative, sometimes humorous new combinations.