Jack Wolfe, 1924-2007
From the establishment perspective, Jack Wolfe was one of the most promising young artists of the 1950’s. He was recognized as such by, among other organizations, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Carnegie Institute, The American Federation of Arts, and The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. The renowned art historian Meyer Shapiro called Wolfe’s work “significant for the history of 20th century American art.”
From the outset, Wolfe’s body of work evinced his dual focus on portraiture, on one hand, and, on the other, pure abstraction. He was alternately hailed as the American inheritor of French Cubism; a logical descendant of Picasso; a counterpart to the Abstract Expressionists; and a synthesizer of diverse formalist traditions. Some of his early works, for example his portrait of Lincoln, “Witness - 1962,” were hailed by critics and collectors as masterpieces. However, largely for personal reasons, Wolfe stopped showing in commercial galleries and withdrew from the art scene.
Since his renunciation of the “career” aspects of his work as an artist, almost three decades ago, until his death in 2007, Wolfe continued to paint (every day) in his studio in Stoughton MA. He created a vast and formidable body of work as diverse and substantial as that of any American artist of the 20th century.
Perhaps the strongest of Wolfe’s paintings are his large, colorful abstractions, a body of work which evolved over the course of decades. Drawing on the painterly and passionate brushwork of abstract expressionism, as well as an attention to form characteristic of the hard edged school, Wolfe achieves a difficult synthesis of opposing traditions. His abstract works are notable for their dazzling and original display of color and include dramatically shaped canvases.