About the Artist
Ernst Ulmer's artistic ability began to express itself at an early age. Born to German immigrants who s -->ettled in Kansas, he grew up helping in his family's grocery business. His first works of art were drawn on discarded boxes he found laying around his family's store. Always a keen observer of life, his young mind absorbed all the details of his childhood during the Great Depression. The struggle to survive left a deep impression on him and gave him a sympathy for the plight of the common man that has continued to influence his work throughout his life.
Ernst began to paint professionally after serving his country during World War II. He entertained his fellow officers with humorous sketches and cartoons which garnered rave reviews. When the war was over, he decided to pursue a career which would utilize his natural artistic ability. He earned his M.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1950, spent some time producing technical illustrations for the aircraft industry and architectural firms and, in the late 70's, finally surrendered to the drive to express what truly held his interest. Loosed from the bonds of commercial work, Ernst devoted his life to the arts.
While his work has been influenced by such famous American impressionists as Mary Cassett, George Bellows and Caleb Bingham, he developed his own unique style which he described as "loose realism". His style invokes clear images which are then softened by his unique ability to allow the subjects essential qualitites to shine through. Ernst's artwork takes into account the sensory experience of the viewers, inviting them to participate in the interpretation and understanding of the work. Highly versatile in his choice of mediums, Ernst was comfortable in his use of oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastel, and graphite pencil. He was also an accompished sculptor working mainly in bronze and utilized the lost wax technique.
His paintings and murals are prized by private and corporate collectors worldwide. Noted collectors include former U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell; Football Hall of Famer, Merlin Olson; and actress Kirstie Alley. Ernst's work has appeared in many national publications including Sports Illustrated, U.S. News and World Report, and Time magazine. His work has been in a number of special interest publications including, North and South, the Official Magazine of the Civil War Society on two occasions; the Kansas State Historical Society's publication, Kansas History; and The Artist magazine. Throughout his career, Ernst received many awards, including the prestigious First Place award, American in Paris, for pastel, presented to him by the Salon International du Pastel, Compeigne, France. Several of his paintings are included in the permanent collections of various organizations including Kansas City Kansas Power and Light and the Leavenworth Museum. In addition, Ernst has installed over twenty large-scale murals in public and private buildings including the Leavenworth County Courthouse, Headquarters of the Salvation Army, Board of Public Utilities, Security National Bank, Immaculate Conception Church - St. Joseph Parish in Leavenworth, and the Kansas City Public Library.
Ernst has also been actively involved in promoting the arts for many years. He served a four-year term on the Kansas Arts Commission and as a commissioner on the Kansas Arts Council. He was a founder and president of the Heartland Pastel Society and a signature member of the Degas Pastel Society of New Orleans, Louisana and the Kansas Watercolor Society. His work in these organizations has encouraged the advancement, appreciation, and creation of the arts through competitions, mentoring and advising the private and public sectors. In addition to his work through various organizations, Ernst regularly volunteered his time and artistic talent where needed. Not limiting his philanthropy to his local community, he has also been a major contributor to the fundraising efforts of the American Heart Association and illustrated many of their annual Christmas cards.
For more than fifty years the world of art has been enriched, enlivened and educated by Ernst's work. Few artists were able to move as effortlessly among a variety of media as Ernst did during his prolific career. Through his multitude of paintings portraying common everyday scenes, Ernst has engendered pride in his fellow Kansans. He captured the distinct personalities of the subjects of his life-like portait work, his love for American history has expressed itself in his portrayals of important moments of the Civil War and his respect for Native Americans shines forth as his incredible work captured the honor and pageantry of the America's first people. From hidden boudoirs above a saloon in the Wild West to modern day cowboys brewing coffee on a misty, cold morning, all were worthy subject matter for Ernst's artistic interpretation.
Ernst, who passed away in 2009, is survived by his wife, Mary, always his muse and best critic and promoter. He is also the beloved patriarch of a large, colorful family of four children, eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.