As the world moved into chaos with the first world war, the art world responded by going even weirder. Dadaism was a push back from the colonialism and nationalism that drove war efforts in the late 1910s. Not just a push back from the violence of war, but also a push back from art itself. Sometimes called “anti-art”, it went in the opposite direction from aesthetics, looking to offend the viewer.
An early pioneer in dadaism and surrealism, Max Ernst was a german artist. He spent four years in the german army in World War 1, which traumatized him. He used his art to try and process the experience of war. Besides his work with dadaism and surrealism, he is also credited with developing the technique of Frottage, where one rubs pencil against engraved patterns in wood or other surfaces.
The Hat Makes The Man (1920)
The hats are cut out of catalogs with the connecting lines done in gouache and ink or pencil. There are inscriptions in ink that read "seed-covered stacked-up man seedless waterformer ('edelformer') well fitting nervous system also tightly fitting nerves! (the hat makes the man) (style is the tailor)." The idea for this work began as a sculpture made from wooden hat molds.
Castor and Pollution (1923)
This painting is considered more in of a surreal painting than dada, but it has a strong identity that I personally think connects to his experiences with the war. His art is interesting and challenging and he worked prolifically until his death in 1976.