Friday, November 27, 2015

Inspirations for 2011 – Studio Visits with Wolf Kahn

January 2, 2011 by  
Filed under landscape painting, notable painters

Wolf Kahn - Order in Disorder
Wolf Kahn Order in Disorder 2010 Oil on canvas 52 1/2 x 66 inches


Happy New Year! Last New Year Painting Perceptions celebrated with a post of various web links of sources of interviews, videos and imagery of Wayne Thiebaud. This year I decided that we would look at a few Wolf Kahn quotes, links, videos and images would similarly be an excellent beginning to the year. Wolf Kahn is described by Ameringer & Yohe, his gallery, states

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.


The quote below is from an article titled “A studio visit with Wolf Kahn” which appeared in American Artist in the May 1997 issue

On the subject of landscape painting, Kahn says, “Avoid cliches when looking for places to study and paint the landscape. Often, when I’m observing a scene I want to paint, I look for chaos. Chaos in nature is immediately challenging and forces a good artist to impose some type of order on his or her perception of a site. When I find a scene that provides that type of challenge, I return to it over and over again, both physically and mentally in the studio, continually searching for new insights.” …
“Edgar Degas observed, `Painting is easy, till you know how,’ and that’s what I try to get younger artists to accept,” Kahn says. “Sometimes it’s very good to make a bad painting. In fact, sometimes I try to get into some real trouble while painting and look to the work itself to show me a way out. … Painting is a visceral experience, one loaded with subtle information.”Only Cezanne could get away with a system,” he says, referring to the artist’s disciplined brush work. Kahn distrusts dogma and didacticism. “There are many prejudices about art,” he notes, “and first among them is that it is a skill and that there are definite rules. I want the people looking at my work to feel a sense of all the possibilities of painting, and, through that, in life as a whole. When that happens, I feel I’ve accomplished something useful.”

From American Artist, “A studio visit with Wolf Kahn” May 1, 1997 by Jonathan Phillips


On New Art TV there were a number of excellent videos of significant painters, such as the one I show below here of a Studio Visit with Wolf Kahn, many other videos at New Art TV are worth checking out, a few such as the interview with Alex Katz, I recently posted in the video section section of our forum.


Studio visit with Wolf Kahn from New Art TV part one of two (see next page for part two and the rest of the article)


Darker on the Left, 2007 Oil on canvas 52 x 64 inches

Studio visit with Wolf Kahn from New Art TV part two of two


Wolf Kahn
by Justin Spring, with an essay by Louis Finkelstein
from Amazon.
A review by Stanley Marcus in the October 1996 issue of American Artist says of this book by

… Justin Spring, an art critic and novelist who wrote the main section of the book, explains that although he is a landscape painter, Kahn creates his paintings in his studio. Spring quotes the artist as saying as far back as 1961 that he would “‘take down a set of relationships from nature, then back in New York,'” in his studio, he would “‘develop and clarify these formal relationships.'”
The author says the artist was aware of the contradiction inherent in a landscape painter doing his best work in the studio, but Kahn later said, “‘The environment in which my paintings grow best is at Broadway and 12th Street. I can see clearly in my studio, undistracted by trees and skies. Art being emotion recollected in tranquility [a tongue-in-cheek paraphrase of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, notes the author], I constantly find Nature too emotional, and Broadway very tranquil.'”
The final quote from Kahn in Spring’s piece confirms the artist’s idea about working from nature: “‘People mistakenly think that art is about nature, or about an artist’s feelings about nature. It is instead a path of enlightenment and pleasure, one of many paths, where nature and the artist’s feelings are merely raw materials.'”

Buying this book, Wolf Kahn by Justin Spring through this link to the book on will help support Painting Perceptions in the coming year as we could get a small percentage of the sale.

Weathered, 2007 Oil on canvas 28 x 32 inches

“Eighty percent of painting is color,” says Wolf Kahn, quoting his mentor Hans Hofmann. “The problem,” he cautions, “is that when you mention color, people automatically assume you’re talking about bright color–colorful, loud, or boisterous hues. Color used in an uncontrolled way, without proper concern for the tone and structure of a painting, comes across as garish.”
This German-born artist did not always paint the vibrant canvases for which he has become so well known. In the late 1950s and through much of the ’60s, his works were predominantly gray-hued. He believes he is a much better artist for having gone through this period of austerity and exploration. “One of the first things I point out to those looking for advice,” Kahn says, “is that everything is a color: gray, white, black, a quiet earth tone. I might ask participants in one of my workshops to make a bright painting that celebrates the color gray in order to make them think more deeply about the variety of ways gray can function in pictorial space.”

From American Artist, “A studio visit with Wolf Kahn” May 1, 1997 by Jonathan Phillips

Order in Disorder 2010 Oil on canvas 52 1/2 x 66 inches

Good Links for more information about Wolf Kahn on the web.
Artist website
Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe (Artist’s Gallery website)
Thomas Segal Gallery
Wolf Kahn: Landscapes of Light, 1953-2006 essay by Mara Williams

Pond on a Dark Day 2009 Oil on canvas 20 x 28 inches

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10 Responses to “Inspirations for 2011 – Studio Visits with Wolf Kahn”
  1. Philip Koch says:

    “make a bright painting that celebrates the color grey” – I love that thought!

  2. What an inspirational video, this is a wonderful site and I look forward to being a regular viewer

  3. Paula says:


    Thank you, Again!

    Very very cool

  4. I would like to find out about signing up for a workshop with Wolf Kahn.

    • Larry says:

      I would guess that workshops with him would be pretty rare but perhaps at someplace like the Vermont Studio School might occasionally have one with him. I didn’t see anything right off by googling wolf kahn workshops. He is advanced not only in age but also in reputation and stature so his need to give workshops would likely be just a labor of love…

  5. Thank you- great post and interview-

  6. Order in Disorder, is one of my favorites and if he was ever to do a class my studio in Naples Florida would welcome him with open arms to say the least, but as Larry says it would be more than likely to be labor of love. Myself I love to help others and share what I know as well..this was a great post

  7. Jerry Fresia says:

    I did take a workshop with Wolf in 1995. He doesn’t mince words and can be somewhat brutal. However, he gave me a single one line criticism that really stuck with me: “Your paintings aren’t messy enough,” he said. I always loved the simplicity and power of the way he phrased that. He could have launched into a complicated treatise, I’m sure. But he didn’t and I understood right off what he was getting at. He’s very good with words.

    Few good artists are also good, clear thinkers. He’s one of them.

  8. kevin leahy says:

    Have a friend that is intrigued with bthe style of Wolf Kahn.

    Looking for a workshop or lecture.

    Can you help.

    • Larry says:

      I suspect Wolf Kahn might lecture on occasion but from what I’ve heard I don’t think he gives workshops anymore. I could be wrong though, not sure how you would find out other than contacting him through his gallery and keep checking online. I would just try to see his work in the flesh as much as possible and also look at his books. He talks quite about about his process, thinking and work in the book on his pastels as I recall – although I don’t have it in front of me.

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