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Wolf Kahn

 (born 1927)
Wolf Kahn is active/lives in New York, Vermont / Germany.  Wolf Kahn is known for abstract landscape and still life painting.

Wolf Kahn

Biography from the Archives of askART

Working within a predominantly abstractionist context, a group of younger artists forged a mode of representational* art in the 1950s and 1960s that made use of Abstract Expressionist* painterly freedom and spontaneity in order to document the life around them.  However, subject matter, including human figures, was recognizable, which was much against the grain of most of their peers.

Wolf Kahn, one of the leaders of this group and a native of Stuttgart, Germany, directed this approach toward the painting of the landscape, which he has steadfastly developed over a period of forty years.  With studios in New York and Vermont, he has been a colorist* who uses simplified geometric designs and contrasting, carefully balanced colors.  He has a fascination with barns that date to 1966 when he did a work titled First Barn Painting.  He returned to this subject throughout the 70s and 80s.  In 1999, a major exhibition of his work was held at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta Georgia.

Today Kahn's use of color has placed him at the forefront of American representational Art, and has made him one of the most highly regarded colorists working in America today.  He has received Fulbright and Guggenheim* Fellowships, and an Award in Art from the American Academy and Institute for Arts and Letters.

Web site of Virginia Lynch Gallery. Tiverton Rhode Island

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Spanierman Gallery
An important member of the second generation New York School, Wolf Kahn is renowned for his luminous, richly colored landscapes.   Focusing on such thematic imagery as the tended fields, houses and sturdy barns of New England, Kahn's work represents a masterful synthesis of illusionistic representation and abstraction.

Kahn was born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1927.  As a boy, he studied painting and drawing in Frankfurt.  In 1939 his family separated by the Nazi upheaval, Kahn was sent to Cambridge, England, with other refugee children.  One year later he arrived in New York City, where he was united with his father, a noted musician.   Kahn continued his education at the New York High School of Music and Art, graduating in 1945.  During 1946 after a brief period of service in the Navy, he worked under Stuart Davis at the New School for Social Research.  From 1947 until 1949, Kahn attended Hans Hofmann's School of Fine Art in New York.  He also spent a summer as Hofmann's studio assistant in Provincetown.

In 1950 Kahn enrolled at the University of Chicago, receiving his bachelor's degree a year later.  After a period of traveling across the continent and working in Oregon as a lumberjack, he returned to New York and resumed painting.   In 1956, along with several other of Hofmann's former students, he helped found the Hansa Gallery, one of the first artists' co-operative loft galleries.   During these years, Kahn was one of several young artists, including Elaine de Kooning and Robert De Niro, who were influenced by action painting but, at the same time, felt the need to reintroduce nature back into their art.

Kahn's early work consists of still lifes and figure studies, which show the influence of Hofmann's "push-pull" space as well as his gestural energy.  However, Kahn's mature style revolves around the portrayal of un-peopled landscapes in which he combines an expressive chromaticism (inspired by Milton Avery and Mark Rothko) with an emphasis on the dynamics of light and atmosphere.  Many critics describe him as a Luminist, carrying on the 19th century tradition but with a thoroughly modern sensibility.  Kahn draws much of his subject matter from the landscape in and around his farm in Vermont, where he spends his summers.

Kahn has had numerous solo exhibitions, organized by such institutions as the San Diego Museum of Art (1984, 1987), the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute (1882), the Arts Club of Chicago (1981) and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum (1979). He is also the recipient of many awards and prized, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1966-67).

Examples of Kahn's work can be found in most of America's major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, to name only a few.


©The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery LLC and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery LLC nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery LLC.

Biography from Taylor | Graham
Wolf Kahn's well-balanced colorist technique of depicting landscapes has made him one of the most influential American artists of our generation.  A native of Stuttgart, Germany, he attended the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York City.  It was here that he and a group of young artists, under the direction of Hans Hofmann, forged a style that was both representational and Abstract Expressionistic.  Hans Hofmann's didactic artistic theories proved to be one of the most significant influences upon Kahn's work.

In his own words, "We who studied with Hofmann felt ourselves to be the bearers of a more profound message, one better suited to give content and weight to the calling of 'artist.'  We felt we were learning the essence of modernism, art stripped of everything extraneous.  What remained was its esthetic/philosophical foundation, its raison d'être." These progressive artists included Nell Blaine, Jane Freilicher, Allan Kaprow, Jan Muller, and Larry Rivers.  They adopted Abstract Expressionistic spontaneity with the idea that the finished piece was an accumulated history of a process, a visual representation of energetic action and reaction.  His influences and inspiration can be found in the works of such European artists as Braque, Bonnard, Soutine, and Van Gogh.  He embraced the ideas of the Old Masters as well as those of Impressionism, Expressionism, and Post-Impressionism.

Kahn formulated a unique way in which he would employ simplified geometric designs while carefully contrasting numerous colors and tones.  Whether it is his landscapes, which he was most recognized for, or his portraits, one may, upon inspection, feel paradoxical feelings of tranquility and brute emotion.  With studios in both New York and Vermont, Kahn was able to draw his artistic inspiration from scenes in nature.  His paintings are illuminating and beautiful, the colors striking and rich, the process intimately apparent to the observer.  Kahn's intuitive sense of color and dedicated pursuit of a new and sincere vision led to moments of youthful pleasure while others appeared delicate, ostensibly capturing the essence of the atmosphere.

National Museum of American Art
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The Brooklyn Museum of Art
Jewish Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of Modern Art
Whitney Museum
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Hansa Gallery, 1952-53, 1955
Borgenicht gallery, 1956, 1959, 1967
Seligmann Gallery, 1947
"813 Broadway", 1950
Stable Gallery, 1954-5
Whitney Museum, 1960

Guggenheim Fellowship, 1967

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV
Born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1927, Wolf Kahn immigrated to the United States by way of England in 1940. In 1945 he graduated from the High School of Music and Art in New York after which he spent time in the Navy. Under the GI Bill he studied with the well-known teacher and abstract expressionist Hans Hoffman, becoming Hofmann's studio assistant. In 1950 he enrolled in the University of Chicago from which he graduated in 1951 with a BA.

Having completed his baccalaureate degree in only one year, Kahn was determined to become a professional artist. He and other former Hofmann students established The Hansa, a cooperative gallery where he had his first one man show. In 1956 he joined the Grace Borgenicht Gallery where he exhibited regularly until 1995. Mr. Kahn has received a Fulbright Scholarship, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a member of the Nation Academy of Design, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has recently completed an appointment to the New York City Art Commission. Traveling extensively, he has painted landscapes in such diverse locales as Maine, Mexico, Italy, Greece, Kenya, New Mexico, Hawaii and Egypt. He spends his summers and autumns in Vermont on a hillside farm, which he and his wife, the painter Emily Mason, have owned since 1968. They have two daughters, Cecily and Melany. Cecily Kahn is a painter, married to the painter David Kapp.

The unique blend of Realism and the formal discipline of Color Field painting sets the work of Wolf Kahn apart. Kahn is an artist who embodies the synthesis of his modern abstract training with Hans Hofmann, with the palette of Matisse, Rothko's sweeping bands of color, and the atmospheric qualities of American Impressionism. It is precisely this fusion of color, spontaneity and representation that has produced such a rich and expressive body of work. Wolf Kahn regularly exhibits at galleries and museums across North America. Selected museum collections include Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA.

Source: artist's website (

Biography from Jerald Melberg Gallery
Wolf Kahn is a landscape painter for whom color is his signature.  Continually striving for a deeper insight into the possibilities of color, Wolf Kahn makes landscape paintings with techniques of luminism.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Kahn emigrated to the U.S. as a child.  After attending classes at the New School for Social Research he studied with Hans Hofmann at his School of Fine Art in New York City. 

Wolf Kahn has been honored with numerous awards and his work can be found in the permanent collections of over 100 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia
Wolf Kahn, the youngest of four siblings, was born into a well-to-do artistic family.  His father was the conductor of the Stuttgart Philharmonic Symphony, and his mother came from a family of art collectors.(1)  During 1938, Kahn took his first art lessons, but most of his initial drawings were of military or historical events.  The next year Kahn was sent to England for safety following the ascendancy of Hitler to power, and in 1940, he immigrated to the United States.

In 1942, he entered New York's High School of Music and Art, and while there, he was employed by a commercial art firm doing illustrations.  After a stint in the Navy, Kahn entered Hans Hofmann's school, and among his fellow students were Neil Blaine, Jane Freilicher, Allan Kaprow and Larry Rivers.  His initial results were done with a dark palette and abstracted forms, and although Hofmann's style of teaching was difficult, Kahn has consistently praised him for teaching him the value of control and understanding.(2)  Kahn's first exhibition was a 1951 group show in a loft with several other artists in lower Manhattan.  From this impromptu show, a group effort evolved called the Hansa Gallery Cooperative.(3)  In 1953, Wolf Kahn had a one-man show at this gallery, which was reviewed by Fairfield Porter, and at this same time bolder, more vivid colors began to appear in his work.  By the mid-1950's, on a summer trip to Provincetown, Kahn's paintings indicated a new direction of softening warm colors in the manner of Bonnard.  He was included in Meyer Shapiro's seminal exhibition, The New York School: The Second Generation at the Jewish Museum, and by the end of the 1950s, he had developed his abstracted landscape style for which he is best known. 

In 1966, he made his first "barn" painting on Martha's Vineyard that reduced the complexities of detail of the architecture to a more basic shape, a stylistic convention that is evident in the Museum's painting.  Kahn has since commented frequently on his use of color as a unique and specific component of each work as the situation demands, where the gradual buildup of the colors resembles the beauty and translucent nature of pastels.(4)  Since then Kahn has had one-person exhibitions at the Kansas City Art Institute, Chrysler Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and the Columbus Museum, among others.  His work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums throughout the United States.

1. Much of the biographical information is drawn from Justin Spring, Wolf Kahn (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996).
2. Spring, 21. Wolf Kahn draws this from a 1973 address to the College Art Association.
3. This group included Jane Wilson, Allan Kaprow, Richard Stankiewicz, John Chamberlain, Lucas Samaras, George Segal and Robert Whitman. The name paid homage to Hans Hofmann.
4. Wolf Kahn, "Notes 1990-1991," Wolf Kahn: New Landscape Paintings and Pastels (Charlotte, NC: Gerald Melberg Gallery, 1991), unpaginated.  In a 1995 catalogue, Wolf Kahn, New Paintings - Celebrating Color (New York: Grace Borgenicht Gallery, 1995), Kahn goes on to state that the "use of color, especially bright color, requires the strict exercise of tact and decorum…art must not be allowed to degenerate into stroking."
Submitted by the staff of the Columbus Museum, Georgia

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About  Wolf Kahn

Born:  1927 - Stuttgart, Germany
Known for:  abstract landscape and still life painting