Ernest Martin Hennings was born in Pennsgrove, New Jersey and lived most of his younger life in Chicago. Ernest became intensely interested in painting, studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. After his graduation, Hennings traveled to Munich and joined the American Artists club where he met Walter Ufer and Victor Higgins. His style, which had until this point been Classical Realism, was altered slightly by the avant-garde work of the modernists working in pre-war Munich. With the First World War, Hennings was forced to return to the United States where he opened a studio as a fine art showcase for his interested patrons. Oscar Mayer quickly became a client. Mayer, being one of the largest benefactors of several members of the Taos society, including Ufer and Higgins, sent Hennings to Taos to paint in 1917 and the opportunity proved a pivotal moment in his career.
When Hennings returned from Taos his work had changed into a more colorful and precise style of painting using very thin layers of paint, left to dry for long periods of time. The result was a series of bright paintings featuring riders and Indians in New Mexico. Hennings would render the background first and then consider where the figures in the piece would go after seeing the result. Because of the lengthy period required to let pieces dry, he would work on multiple canvases at a time. In 1921 Hennings moved to Taos permanently. Soon after, in 1924, Hennings was invited to join the Taos Society of Artists, in good company of such noted painters like Berninghaus and Blumenschein, who believed Hennings to be the most talented painter of the group. Hennings final project before he died was a commission from the Santa Fe Railway for a series of paintings to be hung on the Navajo Reservation.