He was the son of a landowner who later became the station master of Sorau. He was a student of Carl Steffeck in Berlin where, after a year spent on a study trip to Paris, he would decide to live. In 1875, he became a Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe. From there, he moved to the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1880. He retired from teaching in 1885.
Initially, he focused on decorative painting, but soon turned to genre scenes, featuring Martin Luther and Queen Louise. In the 1890s, he once again switched styles, this time to portrait painting. He made himself welcome at court, where he produced canvases of the Grand Duke and Duchess of Baden and the Crown prince Friedrich III. He also painted several portraits of University professors (including Arthur Auwers and Karl Möbius). Later, he ventured into painting scenes from history and literature (such as Gretchen in Prison, a scene from Goethe's Faust).
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- Ernst Hildebrand (Maler). In: Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker et al.: Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Vol.27, E. A. Seemann, Leipzig 1933, S. 75.
- Irmgard Wirth: Berliner Malerei im 19. Jahrhundert. Siedler Verlag, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-572-10011-9, S. 339.
- Media related to Ernst Hildebrand at Wikimedia Commons