Jimmy Ernst American, 1920-1984


The son of the prominent Dada and Surrealist artist Max Ernst, Jimmy Ernst was born in Cologne, Germany. His parents separated early in his childhood, and Max left his wife and son for Paris. It was while visiting his father, however, that Jimmy Ernst would be exposed to such key players in the art world as Alberto Giacometti, Man Ray, Victor Brauner, Joan Miró, André Masson, René Clair, Yves Tanguy, and Salvador Dalí. Jimmy was privy to an exclusive screening of Buñel's film L'Âge d'Or, and his father provided his first exposure to American jazz. He closely observed his father at work in his studio.


Jimmy Ernst's artistic revelation occurred when he saw Picasso's Guernica at the Paris World Exposition, and was inspired by its communicative power. He moved to New York on a sponsorship from the printmaker J.J. Augustin, who employed Ernst at the company's New York Branch. He would later work at the Film Library of the Museum of Modern Art and as the director of Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery before opening his own space, the Norlyst Gallery, in New York City.


In his early work, Ernst was influenced by the physical, gestural act of painting as opposed to the theoretical discussions behind it. He spent time in Matta's studio studying automatism with Jackson Pollock, and found himself bound to a young group of New York artists by virtue of their mutual love of jazz. He remained involved with the New York avant-garde scene-despite a move to Sedona, Arizona, in 1944-and participated in "the Artists' Sessions at Studio 35" in 1950, joining the "Irascible Eighteen" in protest of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In his later career he would see teaching positions at Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College, as well as a Carnegie Foundation Grant and John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. Ernst continued to paint and exhibit widely until his death in 1984. Today, the Jimmy Ernst Award is presented annually in the artist's name by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Awards and Memberships

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 1961

Honorary doctorate from Southampton College of Long Island University, 1982

Board of Trustees of Guild Hall, East Hampton

New York American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters

Museums and Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago

Harvard Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Museum of Modern Art

Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University

Canton Museum of Art

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Princeton University Art Museum

San Diego Museum of Art

Southern Alleghenies Museum

Tampa Museum of Art

Walker Art Center

Albright-Knox Art Gallery

American Academy of Arts and Letters

Corcoran Gallery of Art

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts

Des Moines Art Museum

Detroit Institute of the Arts

Israel Museum

National Museum of American Art

New York University Grey Art Gallery

Norton Gallery of Art

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Whitney Museum of American Art

Solo Exhibitions

1948 Laurel Gallery, NY

1950 Robert Carlens Gallery, Philadelphia

1951 Grace Borgenicht Gallery, NY

1953 Obelisk Gallery, Washington, D.C.

1954 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

1955 Silvermine Guild of Artists, Norwalk, CT

1956 Philadelphia Art Alliance; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


1957 Art on the Campus, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

1962 Obelisk Gallery, Washington, D.C.

1963 Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany

1963 Detroit Institute of Arts

1965 Städtisches Kunsthaus, Bielefeld, Germany; Amerika Haus, Berlin, Germany; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, PA; Norton Gallery and School of Art, West Palm Beach, FL


1966 Des Moines Art Center

1968 Arts Club of Chicago

1970 Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY

1972 Galerie Lucie Weill, Paris

1974 Riva Yares Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ

1981 Harmon Gallery, Naples, FL

1984 Armstrong Gallery, NY

1985 Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY

1986 Century Club, NY; Galerie am Schloss in Ausstellung der Stadt, Brühl, Germany


1987 Retrospective; Harmon-Meek Gallery, Naples, FL; Corbine Gallery, Sarasota, FL


1988 The Forgotten Mural, Hofstra Museum, Hempstead, NY

1988 Univeristy of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

1994 Trials of Silence, Tampa Museum of Art, Florida

1997 Shadow to Light, Sardoni Art Gallery, Wilkes-Barre, PA

1998 The Sea of Grass Series and Beyond, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL

1999 Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany

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