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Artist Biography

 E. Martin Hennings was originally from Penns Grove, New Jersey. In 1888 his family moved to Chicago, where Hennings later attended the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1904 he graduated with honors and continued classes there until 1906. Upon completion, he worked in commercial art. His first commission was a mural (now destroyed) in the restaurant of the Art Institute. In 1912 Hennings again enrolled in classes at the Art Institute and entered the Prix de Rome competition. He was awarded second place, a prestigious honor, yet it did not provide scholarship to study abroad. Disappointed but determined, Hennings enrolled in the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany with the hope that he might work under Franz von Stuck, an influential and world-renowned artist of the German Art Nouveau movement Jugendstil. Von Stuck initially declined to teach him, but after seeing Hennings’ work, he accepted him as a student. In the summer of 1914, Hennings commenced a museum tour of Europe, but the outbreak of World War I brought an abrupt end to his travels and he returned to America in 1915. Hennings set up a studio in Chicago and began to paint in earnest. He exhibited his work and garnered prizes and acclaim. He taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, but after one year declined to continue teaching. At this time he was also commissioned to paint several murals.

Hennings artwork gained the attention of prominent Chicago locals such as Oscar Meyer, the meat packing magnate, and Carter H. Harrison, former mayor of the city. Both Meyer and Harrison hunted in Taos, New Mexico, and purchased paintings from some of the artists who worked there, including Victor Higgins and Walter Ufer. In 1917, Harrison and Meyer offered to support Hennings’ endeavor in New Mexico with a guaranteed purchase of any paintings he produced there. Hennings arrived in Taos and was immediately impressed with the scenic beauty and the Indian people. By 1921, Hennings decided to settle there permanently, and by 1924 he was awarded membership in the Taos Society of Artists, whose other members included Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse, Ernest Blumenschein, W. Herbert Dunton, Bert G. Phillips, Joseph Henry Sharp, and Walter Ufer.

Hennings was known to work on several canvases at a time, but only signed his name to those he believed encompassed his artistic objective. He outlined: “In every picture I expect the fundamentals to be observed, which I term draftsmanship, design, form, rhythm, and color. Art must of necessity be the artist’s own reaction to nature and his personal style is governed by his temperament, rather than by a style modeled through the intellect… I believe in an individual-creative interpretation of my subjects—Design and originality are dominant qualities of my work.”

Hennings exhibited his work at the Palette & Chisel Club (1916, gold medal); Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, National Academy of Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Paris Salon (1927, medal), and the Academy of Western Painters, Los Angeles (1937, prize). His work is housed in important collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Houston Museum of Fine Art, Denver Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum of New Mexico, and the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation.