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Jimmy Ernst

 (1920 - 1984)
Jimmy Ernst was active/lived in New York / Germany.  Jimmy Ernst is known for abstract expression and surrealist painting.

Jimmy Ernst

Biography from the Archives of askART

Jimmy Ernst decided early in life not to become  an artist, for fear of being in the shadow of his father, Max Ernst.  Suddenly, at the age of twenty, he felt  the urge to paint, but not in the surrealist style of his father.  He was brought up by his mother, Louise Straus, in  Cologne, after his parents were divorced.  His ethical grounding was instilled by his mother, who was Jewish and a journalist and led him to understand that his father's emotional cruelty did not amount to much in light of the Nazi's actual threats.  

He studied at Cologne-Lindenthal Real-Gymnasium and  the Altona Arts and Crafts School where he completed a three year apprenticeship in printing and  typography.  In 1928 he went to Colorado with anthropologist Gladys Reichard and worked with  Navajo Indians.  In 1938 he emigrated to the United States to escape the Hitler regime; he left Germany just a week before Kristallnacht.  His mother died in a German concentration camp.

Ernst's name and connections landed him a job at the Museum of Modern Art as office boy.  In 1941 Peggy Guggenheim, patroness of the arts in New York, hired him as her personal assistant.  Later he worked with advertising agencies and art galleries.  Ernst taught at the University of Colorado, summers of 1954 through 1965, the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston 1956, and Brooklyn College. He lectured extensively at Pratt Institute. He was the winner of many awards, had many one-man shows and was included in group shows throughout the United States and the rest of the world.  Ernst began experimenting with automatism (use of free visual association to produce bizarrely original images).  In the late 1940s he went through his "jazz" period, i.e. his improvisations gained shape and metaphoric  weight using vibrant, vareigated colors, gradually changing to purifying blacks and whites.  His powers of composition and paint handling increased, reasserting control over his imagery.

In 1961, Ernst traveled through Russia and Europe on grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the State Department.  At the age of sixty-three, he died at a Manhattan radio station hours after having hung a show.  He was waiting to appear on a talk show promoting the show and a book.  He was married to  Dallas Bauman Brody.  They had one daughter, Amy Louise who is a Music Administrator and a son Eric, a painter.  Ernst was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1983. He died on February 6, 1984.

Sources include:
Dictionary of Contemporary American Artists by Paul Cummings
World Artists 1950-80 by Claude Marks 
From a review  of a book by Donald Kuspit written by Hilarie M. Sheets in ARTnews, May 2001
Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher of Laguna Woods, California

Biography from the Archives of askART
The son of Dada Surrealist artist Max Ernst and art historian Louise Straus-Ernst, Jimmy Ernst was influenced by the style of his father as well as friendship with William Baziotes and Kurt Seligmann and other modernists who he met through his parents.

He was born in Cologne, Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1938 to escape the Hitler regime. He worked at the Museum of Modern Art and in 1941, Peggy Guggenheim, patroness of the arts in New York, hired him as her personal assistant.

His work is in numerous museum collections including the Pasadena Art Institute in California, the Toledo Museum of Art and Houston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Biography from Spanierman Gallery
An important and influential artist and educator, Jimmy Ernst was associated with two of the twentieth century's major art movements—Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.  The son of the Surrealist painter Max Ernst and the art historian Louise Straus, he was born Hans Ulrich Ernst in Cologne, Germany, on June 24, 1920.  His parents divorced two years later, and his father moved to Paris, while Ernst stayed in Cologne with his mother.

In 1930, Ernst traveled to Paris to visit his father, where he met many of the Surrealists including Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Andre Masson, Jean Miró, and Man Ray.  After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the Ernst apartment in Cologne was searched, and his mother began to fear for their safety.  He was sent to live with his maternal grandfather, while his mother moved to Paris.  Five years later, in 1938, Ernst immigrated to the United States.  After settling in New York, he met other European exiles and members of the avant-garde.

Ernst petitioned the Emergency Rescue Committee in 1941 to help his parents escape France.  His father successfully fled Europe in 1941, arriving in America with Peggy Guggenheim.  However, his attempt to rescue his mother was unsuccessful.  In 1944 she was sent to Auschwitz, where she died.

Ernst had his first solo exhibition at Norlyst Gallery in New York in 1941.  On October 20, 1942, Guggenheim's legendary Art of this Century Gallery opened with Ernst as Director, a role that further associated him with the New York avant-garde.

In 1950, he joined such eminent artists as Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko in the famous "Irascible Eighteen."  The largely Abstract Expressionist group protested the perceived anti-abstractionist bias of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and drew much attention to the New York School. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Ernst exhibited in the Grace Borgenicht Gallery, Inc., New York, and in various other galleries across in the United States and abroad.

Ernst married Edith Dallas Bauman in 1947.  They had two children, Amy Louise (1953) and Eric Max (1956).  In 1969 Ernst moved to East Hampton, New York where he lived off and on for the rest of his life.  In 1982 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate by Southampton College of Long Island University.  Shortly before his death, in 1983, Ernst was elected to the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters, both in New York.

Ernst died suddenly of a stroke on February 6, 1984, in New York.

His works are owned by numerous world-class public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Kerstin Wenger

Copyright* The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery.

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About  Jimmy Ernst

Born:  1920 - Cologne, Germany
Died:   1984 - New York City
Known for:  abstract expression and surrealist painting