Helge Ernst (1916-1991)

Guernica (1950)

Helge Ernst was born in Copenhagen on 27th January 1916. He was a Danish painter, printmaker, designer and filmmaker.

Ernst was, essentially, a completely self-taught painter. He first exhibited in 1938 at the Autumn Art Exhibition (Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling), a juried exhibition held every year (since 1915) which is held in the Free Exhibition Building (Den Frie Udstillings) in Copenhagen. In 1939 he briefly studied under the French sculptor, painter, teacher and writer André Lhote (1885-1962) in Paris.

Helge Ernst's early works were heavily influenced by the works of the landscape and figurative Danish painters Niels Lergaard (1893-1982) and Erik Hoppe (1896-1968). Ernst travelled extensively - Germany, France and Norway in the 1930s, Tunisia, Greece, the Netherlands and the UK in the 1940s and 1950s. By the early 1950s his works were becoming increasingly non-figurative and abstract.

In 1955, Ernst became the first abstract painter to become a member of the very traditional Koloristerne group (established 1932). In 1965 he became a member of the Grønningen group of artists. Named after the street (Grønningen) in Copenhagen where their first art exhibition was held, it is one of the oldest and most important artist groups in Denmark. It currently has 54 members and still hosts annual exhibitions at the Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall.

Between 1975 and 1988 Helge Ernst was a curator for the Bornholm Art Museum (Bornholms Kunstmuseum). His book about Bornholm painters (Bornholmermalerne og malere på Bornholm) was published in 1984. He also made short films, most notably 'Picassos Guernica' (1962), 'Oluf Høst' (1964) and (in 1972) a series of films on modern painting.