Contents Copyright © 2003-2009

|    ARTISTS../artists/index-01.html
 HOME  ../gallery_/home.html
|   EXHIBITIONS   ../exhibitions/current.html
|   PUBLICATIONS ../publications/p-01.html
|   NEWS & LINKS../news-n-links/n-01.html
|    CONTACT../contact/c-1.html
|    ARTISTS../artists/index-01.html
 HOME  ../gallery_/home.html
|   EXHIBITIONS   ../exhibitions/current.html
|   PUBLICATIONS ../publications/p-01.html
|   NEWS & LINKS../news-n-links/n-01.html
|    CONTACT../contact/c-1.html


461 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(between 15th & 16th St.)../contact/c-1.html

TEL: 415.441.8680

i n f o @ a r t z o n e 4 6 1 . c o m

WILLIAM WOLFF (1922-2004)


William Wolff, an artist known for his bold woodcut prints on literary and mythological subjects, was born in 1922.  A San Francisco native, Wolff spent his entire career in the Bay Area, studying at the California School of Fine Arts (later SFAI) before World War II, and at Mills after his return. He received a MA in art in 1951 from the University of California at Berkeley.  He shared a studio with James Weeks in the Marina district from 1949 to 1955 and painted from the figure with Charles Griffin Farr's circle.  He showed paintings at the Lucien Labaudt Gallery in the Fifties and woodcuts at City Lights Books in the early Sixties.

Wolff found his artistic direction making woodcut prints, using the modernist flattening and compression developed in his earlier paintings to explore the religious, philosophical and literary themes gleaned from his extensive reading in several languages. He worked for more than thirty years at the Graphic Arts Workshop, a cooperative print shop in San Francisco.  He taught at the San Francisco School District’s Youth Guidance Center from 1957 to 1983.  Wolff served as president of the California Society of Printmakers from 1988 to 1990. He encouraged younger artists generously, although he was reticent regarding his own distinctive humanistic work. 

Although he studied etching with Gordon Cook and lithography from Richard Graf in the late Sixties, and pastel with Rupert Garcia in the late Eighties, Wolff's best-known works remain his color woodcuts, with their rough-hewn simple shapes and boldly stylized imagery belying their emotional complexity.  It is the emotional complexity, based on Wolff's literary and philosophical sensibility, that separates him from most of the Bay Area figurative painters who are his contemporaries. While their painterly work is fundamentally esthetic, aiming at visual delight, Wolff's work, despite his appropriation of modernist devices (abstraction, simplification, bright flat color, and collage-based composition), has quite a different goal, older, and perhaps impossibly ambitions: the investigation of man's place in the cosmos. Modest enough and bibliophile enough to revere the canons of western drama, mythology and religion, he is also ambitious enough to use them for personal ends.  Although we clearly are viewing an allegorical or metaphoric world, the effects and emotions are felt, and the viewer responds, almost without knowing why. The images strike a chord in us rarely struck these days.

William Wolff was an artist and man of great integrity, wisdom and good humor.  In today's art world, William Wollf is a rarity, an anomaly: a contemporary artist who, like Blake and Rouault before him, found continuing relevance in religion and literature, and forged powerful imagery from his investigations.  Although he was never well known in the San Francisco art world, his woodcuts and other prints stand the test of time.  Due to the efforts of a number of artists who work to keep his work before the public, Wolff's prints have been acquired by several eminent museums including the Achenbach Collection at the Legion of Honor, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the New York Public Library, the Oakland Museum of California and the Library of Congress. 

Source:  William Wolff, The Invisible City” by DeWitt Cheng

ARTIST BIOwilliam-b.html
THE ESTATE../exhibitions/0901-wolff-p.html




A PRINTMAKER’S ODYSSEY../exhibitions/0910-wolffprints-p.html

Elements,1966, color woodcut,

17 3/4” x 23 3/4”

Angel Over City (City with Angel),1982,

color woodcut, 17 1/4” x 23”

Poet, portrait of Ferlinghetti (with ears),1985,

color woodcut, 13” x 11 1/4”

William Wolff reading in his studio, c. 1950s