About Ernst Wille: German Artist and American History

Ernst Wille, a German painter (1916 – 2005) had a very special relationship with the United States. ‘American History’ a large mural in Fort Niagara, was painted during World War II, when he lived there during 1944 – 1946 as a German prisoner of war.

Captured on D-Day by the Canadian Regiment de la Chaudiere, he was sent to Fort Niagara (New York State), which then functioned as a POW camp. In July 1999 Wille returned to Fort Niagara and finished the mural. Before being drafted into the German Army.

Wille had trained as an artist at Cologne’s Art School. Following repatriation, he entered the Munich Art School and has since become a well known figure in German Art, highly decorated by the German State for his many years of service in art and art education.

WILLE’s work, in general dedicated to the phenomena of color, is part of numerous private collections and has been exhibited in German, Dutch and Belgian Museums. A new exhibition of his work at OMC Gallery in Huntington Beach, starting July 17, 2010, was organized by his former student Rolf Goellnitz, who calls this exhibition”… a tribute to my old friend ERNST WILLE, who was my teacher and father like friend for almost 30 years and whose knowledge and wisdom has nourished my education and career in a profound way.

Titled “Couples and Pairs” the exhibition of the presented paintings, silk screen prints and gouaches, all created between 1973 and 2003, focuses on unity in duality. ‘Couples’ often referred to as ‘Adam and Eve’ and their descendants play a major role in WILLE’s oeuvre, although it’s rather the fascination about the context of two opposing characters and the associated drama, then the religious background which has driven WILLE.

“Pairs” takes the subject to a more abstract less figurative level and is about the effect, based on using two dominating colors within a composition. ERNST WILLE’s approach to color has been very fundamental and was documented in the publication “Farben-Phänomene” (Color-Phenomena) in 1994. One of the major challenges for an artist he defined as:

…to use colors in a way to create light, without painting light…


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