Wolf Kahn

Great Artists

Ochre Barn Ochre Bush, painting by Wolf Kahn

Wolf Kahn

We began our Great Artist series in the fall of 2022 with master landscape painter Wolf Kahn, whose brilliant oils and pastels – such as "Ochre Barn Ochre Bush," left – are celebrated for balancing "the sensuous qualities of color, light, and paint with a relatively stark geometry of form." (New York Times, March 24, 2020) With his beloved Vermont as his muse, Kahn's dreamy landscapes were uniquely his own creation.

Portrait of artist Wolf Kahn
WOLF KAHN. Photograph by Christopher Burke, courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, Wolf Kahn Foundation

Kahn was born in Germany in 1927, and he lived and worked in Vermont and New York City until his passing in 2020. Many of Kahn's paintings were inspired by his summers and falls spent in southern Vermont. Kahn and his wife Emily Mason, also a renowned artist featured in our Great Artists series, divided their time between New York City and their hillside farm in West Brattleboro, VT, for many years.

“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,” Brattleboro Museum and Art Center director Danny Lichtenfeld was quoted in a New York Times story, March 24, 2020.

Of the vibrant and exhilarating colors in his oil and pastel paintings, Kahn was quoted as saying, "I want the color to be surprising to people without being offensive. By offensive, I mean something that makes the teeth grind. I like shock effect, but shock that settles into a harmonious whole.”

Barn Atop a Ridge painting of purple barn on a hill by Wolf Kahn
Credit: Barn Atop a Ridge, 1987, by Wolf Kahn, Wolf Kahn Foundation

Kahn was the son of Stuttgart Philharmonic conductor Emil Kahn and Nellie Budge. After the death of his mother, he spent much of his childhood in the care of his grandmother, Anna Kahn. When he was 11, she helped him flee Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport to England. She did not survive the Holocaust herself. Kahn eventually settled in the United States, where he completed high school and enrolled in the Navy. Following his service, he studied with the influential artist and teacher Hans Hofmann, who had also emigrated from Germany. 

In 1957, Kahn married Mason, an artist of strikingly colorful abstract paintings. The couple shared two daughters, Cecily and Melany, and a life partnership of 62 years until Emily's death in December 2019, just three months before his passing. Kahn’s award-winning art has been exhibited at galleries and museums throughout North America.

Four paintings by Wolf Kahn. Credit: All art in this feature by Wolf Kahn, left to right, Hot Summer, On the Kafka Place, Ochre Barn, Blue Ridge III.
Credit: All art in this feature by Wolf Kahn, left to right, Hot Summer, On the Kafka Place, Ochre Barn Ochre Bush, Blue Ridge III, Wolf Kahn Foundation

Primary resource for this feature:
Wolf Kahn Foundation logo

If you are inspired by this artist, respond to the challenge with your own creations!