Wolf Kahn is to southern Vermont what Winslow Homer is to the coast of Maine, Georgia O’Keeffe to the New Mexico high desert and Claude Monet to the French countryside.
– Danny Lichtenafeld, Director of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center
Wolf Kahn, one of America’s most lyrical landscape painters, died of congestive heart failure in his Manhattan home on March 15. He was 92.
Born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1927, the fourth child of Emil and Nellie Kahn. Nellie died when Kahn was very young. The family was Jewish. Emil, an eminent musician, lost his appointment with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra when came Hitler came to power.
Kahn escaped to England through the Kindertransport Program and, in 1940, he immigrated to the United States, where he was reunited with his father, stepmother and siblings.
In 1945, he graduated from the High School of Music and Art in New York and then spent time in the Navy. Under the GI Bill, he studied with renowned teacher and Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann, later becoming Hofmann’s studio assistant. In 1950, he enrolled at the University of Chicago. He graduated in 1951, completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in just eight months.
Kahn’s very first exhibition was a group show titled, New Provincetown ’47, curated by art critic Clement Greenberg at the Seligmann Gallery on 57th Street in New York and exhibited frequently during his long and distinguished career.
He was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Art from the Academy of Arts and Letters.
His choice of vibrant colors, combined with his sensual technique, made him a favorite of both critics and collectors.
“My choice of color is dictated by tact and decorum stretched by an unholy desire to be outrageous,” he said. “I’m trying to get color to the danger point where it’s too sweet or too noisy without actually making it too sweet or too noisy.”
In 1957, Kahn married painter Emily Mason. The couple lived in Manhattan and spent summers on the farm they bought in 1968, in Brattleboro, Vermont. The couple was married for 62 years, until her death last December, at age 87.
Wolf Kahn was awarded the 2017 U.S. State Department’s International Medal of Arts. His work has been part of the State Department’s Art in Embassies program, which loans work to diplomatic bureaus around the world.
Kahn’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Met, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Boca Raton Museum of Art and other galleries and museums in North America.
Wolf Kahn is survived by two daughters, Cecily Kahn and Melany Kahn, four grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.
Emily Langer. Wolf Kahn, celebrated painter of resplendent landscapes, dies at 92. The Washington Post. March 19, 2020.
Neil Genzlinger. Wolf Kahn, Who Painted Vibrant Landscapes, Is Dead at 92. March 24, 2020.
Bill LeConey. Southern Vermont Artist Wolf Kahn Dies at age 92. Brattleboro Reformer. March 16, 2020.