Ernst Van Leyden was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 1892. He studied Fine Art at the Academy in Rotterdam, the School of Arts and Crafts in Berlin (1912), St Martin’s School of Art in London (1913) and the Académie des Beaux Arts in Brussels.

In 1916, Van Leyden established his first studio in Laren, where he met De Stijl founders Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. Van Leyden then moved to the isolated island of Urk, punctuating his stay with frequent trips abroad; he travelled to France, England, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco. During this time, he painted portraits, street scenes and landscapes. In 1923, Van Leyden received the Queen Wihelmina grant, which allowed him to establish a studio in Paris. In 1927, Van Leyden met artist Karin Kluth; the two married in 1932, then fled wartime Europe for the US with their young son in 1939. They lived in Brentwood, Los Angeles until 1958 and became the portraitists of prominent society figures such as actor Basil Rathbone and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt.

A fire in his London studio and a looting of Holland during World War II resulted in the destruction of most of Van Leyden’s early works. Until the early 1950’s Van Leyden, in collaboration with his wife, created numerous murals using a derivation of the stained glass window technique.

Van Leyden turned to abstract painting in the mid-1950’s and began to make collage-assemblages, often of large dimensions. The works exhibited at Cuadro Fine Art Gallery were created during this period, at the height of the abstract expressionist movement. Van Leyden died in 1969, in Versailles, France.