American (b. 1927)
oil on canvas, signed "W. Kahn" lower left center, numbered "12-1991" and titled on the stretcher.
52 x 60 inches
Wolf Kahn was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1927. He immigrated to the United States in 1940 where he attended the High School of Music and Art in New York and the University of Chicago. Kahn spent time in the Navy and, under the GI Bill, studied with Abstract Expressionist artist Hans Hofmann. He later became Hofmann’s studio assistant and together with other former Hofmann students established Hansa Gallery.
In 1968, Kahn and his wife, Emily Mason, purchased a farm in Vermont. Many of Kahn’s paintings depict the Vermont and New England landscape where the couple would spend their summers and part of the fall. The rest of the year Kahn maintained a gallery in New York City on Broadway and later in Chelsea.
Kahn and his contemporaries embraced the spontaneity and painterly qualities of Abstract Expressionism but applied them to representational compositions. Kahn depicted landscapes, fields, houses and barns from the New England area. He used bold colors and painterly brush strokes, working with oils and pastels. Although the paintings are representational, the main theme is atmosphere, color and light.
In Kahn’s paintings, there is a unique blend of Realism and formal Color Field theory. He successfully combines modernist Abstract Expressionism with the atmospheric qualities of Impressionism. He has said of his paintings, “I like to paint artificial colors that look like they’re out of nature, I don’t care whether they could be or not, I like the feeling that you have a sense that you’ve been there.” (http://www.wolfkahn.com/writing/wolf-kahn-and-six-decades-of-color)
In 1956, Kahn joined the Grace Borgenicht Gallery where he exhibited regularly until 1995. Clearing dates to this productive period in Kahn’s career. This ambitious composition is highly successful featuring many of the best qualities of Kahn’s painting. The painting is composed as both an Abstract Expressionist Color Field painting and a traditional Impressionist New England landscape. The bold colors are reminiscent of Hofmann but are uniquely Kahn. While the bright pinks and purples are almost surreal, Kahn effectively transports the viewer to a forest clearing where the sun is just setting behind the trees creating a beautiful sunset.
In 2014, Ameringer McEnry Yohe Gallery held a retrospective exhibition of the past six-decades of Kahn’s career. Kahn is currently represented by the Miles McEnery Gallery and his work is in many major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Hirshhorn Museum and the National Museum of American Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.