Born Hans-Ulrich Ernst in a apartment on the Kraiser-Wilhelm-Ring, Cologne, Germany, on June 24. His father was the prominent Dada/Surrealist artist Max Ernst, his mother, Louise Straus-Ernst, a well-known art historian and journalist. His childhood was spent in the company of the foremost figures in the avant-garde art world, among them, Jean (Hans) and Sophie (Tauber) Arp, Paul Klee, Paul Eluard, Tristan Tzara, Andre Breton, and Lyonel Feininger.
His parents were divorced. Max traveled to Paris while Louise stayed in Cologne with their son, Jimmy Ernst.
Jimmy Ernst spent part of the year in the country with the family nursemaid, Maja. Ernst attended Roman Catholic services during his stay in the country. His father, Max Ernst, visited his wife and child for the first time while they lived in Cologne, Germany.
Jimmy Ernst attended a public school in Cologne. Despite a stubborn aversion to art, his mother took him to museums and art galleries.
Louise and Jimmy Ernst moved to an apartment on Emma Strasse in the Cologne suburb of Sulz.
Ernst spent his spring school holiday in Paris with his father and his father’s second wife, Marie-Berthe Aurenche. In Paris, he was exposed to the Surrealism of that time such as Giacometti, Man Ray, Miro, Andre Masson, Yves Tanguy, Salvador Dali, and Luis Bunuel. At the Paris music hall, he heard for the first time American Jazz.
Jimmy Ernst attended the Lindenthal Gymnasium located in Cologne.
Adolph Hitler was installed as Chancellor of Germany on January 30. On February 39, the SS searched the Ernst apartment, as a noted intellectual and a Jew, Louise is doubly suspected by the new regime. Jimmy was sent to live with Louise’s father, Jacob Straus. During his stay with his grandfather, he visited his father’s family home in Bruhl, near Cologne. During his stay with his grandfather, Louise moved to Paris to find work. Jimmy payed semi-annual visits to his
mother through 1938.
Becomes an apprentice at the printing firm J.J. Augustin located in Gluckstadt, where he worked as a typographer.
During the spring, Jimmy visited the World’s Fair in Paris. He saw Picasso’s mural, Guernica in The Spanish Pavilion. At that point, he began to develop a more positive attitude toward painting. He returned home to his native country, Germany feeling alien to his own country because of the increasingly intense activities of the Nazis (including a traveling exhibition of “decadent” art, featuring work by Max Ernst, amoung others.) Members of the Augustin family worked secretly to obtain an American visa for Jimmy through the firm’s New York office. The firm was threatened with loss of Navy printing contracts if Jimmy, being half Jewish, is not fired. Late in 1937, his visa was obtained.
Jimmy Ernst sailed for New York by way of Paris and Le Havre, on the S.S. Manhattan, arrived in New York, June 9th. Jimmy began working for Augustin’s New York branch, under the sponsorship of the anthropogists Franz Boas, and Gladys Reichard. His mother and father both remained in France. In the summer, Jimmy traveled by car to the Southwest. He visited the Navajo reservations in Arizona. He also visited California before returning to New York. In New York he saw work by his father at the Museum of Modern Art.
Hired to work in the mailroom and film library at the Museum of Modern Art. He began experimanting with poster paints on cardboard.
Allied powers declare war against Axis powers on September 3.
In the winter, he began to work in oils. He also started making prints with linoleum tiles. Guernica was installed in the museum.
Jimmy Ernst met members of the New York avant-garde and European artist in exile. Jimmy painted a mural for the
bathroom of Lyricist John La Touch’s Greenwich Village apartment. Petitions Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) to help Max and Louise Ernst to escape from France.
ERC succeeded in securing release from internment. (Max arrived in New York with Peggy Guggenheim on July 14th and is released from Ellis island three days later, in the custody of his son.) Jimmy Ernst worked as Guggenheim’s personal assistant, organizing her collection. He traveled with Max and Peggy to California, where Chik Austin bought his painting, Vagrant Fugue, for the Wadsworth Atheneum. On their return to New York, Max bought his son better art materials and encouraged his son’s development as a painter.
United States declared war on Japan, December 8th; on Axis powers, December 11th.
Serves as director for the Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery, which opened October 12. Jimmy also assisted in the production of Art of This Century, a catalogue documenting Peggy Guggenheim’s collection.
Jimmy Ernst left Art of This Century, and began helping Elenor Lust organize Norlyst Gallery on West 57th, where he has his first solo exhibition. Museum of Modern Art purchased The Flying Dutchman from the show.
Jimmy lost all contact with his mother. He was employed as production manager in an advertising agency. He later worked in the art department of Warner Brothers.
Unknown to Jimmy, his mother was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp on June 30th from Drancy. She did not survive the war.
Marries Edith Dallas Bauman Brody.
Teaches painting at Pratt Institute.
Whitney Museum purchase award. Second work is purchased by Museum of Modern Art. Participates protest against the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its anti-abstraction bias.
Joins Brooklyn College faculty.
Becomes a U.S. citizen. Moves to South Norwalk, Connecticut.
Black-on-black painting, "Almost Silence," is purchased by the Metropolitan Museum.
Several works enter museum collections in the United States and abroad.
Paints mural, lobby of Envoy Towers, New York.
Travels to Soviet Union as part of the State Department's cultural exchange program. Publishes "A Letter to Artists of the Soviet Union," College Art Journal. Moves to New Canaan, Connecticut.
Included in Whitney Annual and Corcoran Biennial.
Travels in Germany under the sponsorship of the State Department. Retrospective exhibition, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan.
Artist-in-residence, Norton Gallery and School of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida.
Under a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, begins a study and report for UNESCO on "Freedom of Expression in the Arts."
Museum and gallery exhibitions in the USA and Europe.
Builds studio in Nokomis, Florida and begins "Sea of Grass" series inspired by the area's natural environment.
Honorary doctorate from Southampton College of Long Island University.
Elected to membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
St. Martin's Press publishes his memoir, "A Not-So-Still Life," dealing with his youth and first years in America.
"A Not-So-Still Life" reprinted. French and German translations published abroad.
Hudson Hills Press publishes "Jimmy Ernst," a monograph of his life and work.