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 Ulfert S. Wilke  (1907 - 1987)

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Lived/Active: Iowa      Known for: abstract calligraphic expression

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Ad Code: 3
Ulfert S Wilke
An example of work by Ulfert S. Wilke
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ulfert Wilke is known for his calligraphic creations in abstract, non-lettered configuration which form rhythmic cluster and shape open spaces. His creations are in watercolor, ink and acrylic.

The artist was also a teacher, art collector, curator, and museum director. Ulfert was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1907 immigrated to the United States in 1938 and because a citizen in 1943. He had a number of one-man exhibitions worldwide. Germany in 1930s and 1950s, Denver Art Museum in 1943, Georgia Museum in Athens 1956, De Young Museum in San Francisco 1959, Des Moines Art Center in 1970, a traveling exhibition to Omaha and San Francisco in 1970, Charles H. McNider Museum in Iowa 1974 and the Arts Club of Chicago 1977.

During his career he was awarded Guggenheim fellowships to Germany and Italy. First prized in 1943 from the Delgado Museum in New Orleans. In 1956 a Georgia Museum purchase award.

His work is in permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, . Des Moines Art Center, Dayton Art Institute, New, York University Art Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum and the Museum of Tel Aviv in Israel. He has participated in numerous group shows, including the Tokyo Biennial. Numerous collectors hold in private collections.

The work of Ulfert Wilke was described by Alfred Frankenstein of the 'San Francisco Chronicle': "These works are exquisitely done, evoking the baffling beauties of distant languages one cannot decipherIn the drawing of these dancing, lashing, interacting strokes, and their placement in the white, two-dimensional field of the paper, Ulfert Wilke is a past master, gentler than Klee or Miro among the other great modern calligraphers, but of their class and quality."

Submitted by Janet Gwendolyn Smith, September 2003

Biography from Auctionata:
Ulfert Wilke was born in Bavaria in 1907 and immigrated to the United States in 1938.  He studied at Harvard on a scholarship and later at the University of Iowa.  During the 1940s and 50s Wilke worked as an art teacher and was the director at several universities and museums.  He received the Guggenheim Fellowship twice, which he used to travel to Munich, Rome and later Japan where he studied Japanese calligraphy.

In the 1960s Wilke returned to New York where he had ties to many of the main figures of the New York school such as Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Lyonel Feininger, Max Beckmann and Robert Motherwell.  During this time he created the series ‘Interstices’, which earned him international recognition.

Already in the 1930s he had had solo exhibitions in Germany.  From the 1950s onwards he continued to show his works in numerous exhibitions in the US and abroad.

Wilke was fascinated by the written word, which is evident in many of his works.  Especially his later work is characterized by abstract shapes, bold colors and calligraphic elements.  Wilke was also an avid collector, particularly of tribal art.

Today his works are held at MoMA and the Whitney Museum in New York as well as several major private collections.

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