Art 1 – Wolf Kahn landscapes – Due 4/21


In-class preview of pastels:

Blog assignment due 4/21:

Wolf Kahn review

Read the review linked above and the article  linked below. Within the site below, watch the two videos (note especially, in the second video, the path of his career and his comments about painting.)

Wolf Kahn studio visit

In your comments, include the following:

What do you find as the most interesting art historical fact and why?

Does his personal history in Nazi Germany and “Kindertransport” refugee change the way you view and interpret his work?

What insights about painting your own landscapes do you gain from listening to him, looking at, and reading about his paintings ?

In your sketchbook, do a 1 hour landscape, observed from real life, inspired by Wolf Kahn’s work. Try to convey the facts, essence, and spirit of the place.

This will be the plan for your painting when you get back.  (You may want a back up photo for when you paint although most of your painting will come from the preparatory drawing.)


30 responses »

  1. An art history fact that I think is really interesting is that Michelangelo only signed one of his pieces, and he later regretted it, and vowed to not sign another piece again.
    I do not look at his work in a different way with knowing that he was a refugee in Germany, but I really am amazed with how much history he has with each of his paintings, and how he can connect a certain event or place to each one.
    I thought it was really useful how Kahn “looks for chaos in his artwork” and that he likes to make a “bad painting” every once in a while. That really helped me remember that nobody is perfect, and that sometimes the weirdest images will make the best paintings. I will definitely keep this in mind when I start my still life.
    It is really amazing to me how his vision affects his painting and how he turned a disadvantage into an advantage. It makes you look at his artwork in two ways almost. You can just look at it as a painting with amazing colors and textures, or on some, you can find the landscape and buildings and trees that are hidden in the layers of paint. I think it is really amazing.

    • It is interesting that many of his paintings can be viewed in two ways. In his landscapes, Kahn’s arrangements of color, texture, and light find a magical place somewhere between abstraction and representation.

  2. I think that the most interesting art history fact is when he went away and became a logger in the north west forests he found himself again as artist and inspired him to draw again. It shows that taking a break from something/taking a step back and trying something new can be helpful. I dont look at his work differently just because of his personal experience in Nazi Germany , however I do look at his work differently and interpret it differently when he says that he was making all white paintings because his life was so bright with Mason in it. I gain the insight that my paintings shouldn’t be so detailed and i shouldn’t worry about little mistakes when he says that he turned his disadvantage of vision into and advantage.

    • Yes, Kahn’s experience working in the forests seemed to be pivotal in his creative renewal. Nature is often a great starting point for artists, whether it inspires a rough sketch or whole new perspective.

  3. Since the Natzis wouldn’t let him expirience nature, it makes sense why he would draw it, and so beautifully as well.
    After learning about his traumatic childhood, I view his art as a more fantastical space he uses to get away from those memories.

  4. It’s cool getting to know his back story and how he was treated as a kid and all. I find it interesting that he says nature is emotional and broadway is tranquil and he needs tranquility to express emotion through his depiction of nature. What has changed my view of his art more than his history is what he said about the sexuality of his work and this kind of reminded me of Shakespeare and all his hidden innuendos that are there if you want to see them. Like m24cedes, I like what he said about looking for chaos in the nature scenes he uses and I think that will be interesting to incorporate into my choice of subject.

    • I’m curious to see how your preliminary sketch and “chaos in nature” might shape your next painting. In his book of pastel landscapes, Kahn also describes this chaos as “tangles” — “last year’s weeds, broken trees, windfalls, vines… It takes away from nature to try at all times to disentangle these, so I am embracing tangles.”

  5. What do you find as the most interesting art historical fact and why?
    Wolf was intriguing. He’s a German-born American painter. Kahn is known for his combination of realism and Color Field, and known to work in pastel and oil paint. I liked how he cautioned people’s assumptions on color. He mentions the history of his German-born art in how they did not paint vibrant canvases, lots of his work was gray-hued. Kahn even tries to get others to experiment with the wonderful color of gray.

    Does his personal history in Nazi Germany and “Kindertransport” refugee change the way you view and interpret his work?
    My view of his work didn’t really changed. I thought it was interesting to see into his history but it didn’t change the arts effect. I liked how connected he was to each place and how he desperately tried to show his view of nature.

    What insights about painting your own landscapes do you gain from listening to him, looking at, and reading about his paintings ?
    I gained the fact that art like always can be shown in different ways. I liked his technique of going from the dark parts of the painting into the lighters parts. This gave it a kind of mystical transition. It was only after he got everything down that he focused on the layer and details of his work. I think that’s a good tip: to not focus too much and miss the big feel/concept. I also want to remember that colors like gray and white are still prominent colors that can be used to really make a painting, not just bright/vibrant colors.

    On a side note, I also liked how even though his vision affected his art, he didn’t let that stop him instead he used it to his advantage.

  6. Interesting historical fact: It seemed traumatizing to hear that, as a child, he was beaten once because he wasn’t wearing the proper uniform. I can hardly imagine ever experiencing this as a child; I would be scared out of my mind.

    Interpretation: I interpret his artwork as an escape from his childhood trauma. It seems like he paints peaceful scenery to try to forget what happened. However, the bright colors might symbolize distress, but I actually view the paintings as relaxing.

    Insight: I noticed that he doesn’t use much detail in the landscapes, because it’s often better to keep the details simple, as not to take away from the colors in the piece. I also noticed his use of bright and bold colors. He used contrasting bright colors next to one another, so the individual bright colors wouldn’t appear too shocking, and take the attention away from the rest of the landscape. Also, he wouldn’t use a different color everywhere. He would make multiple objects in the scenery the same color, to give the picture unity. For example, he would make both the trees and the grass the same shade of yellow.

    • You make an interesting interpretation of his artwork as an escape from traumatic memories. Some may feel that it is purely an aesthetic experience of beautiful color, while others find personal meaning in the stillness of many of his landscapes. Kahn called this effect of stillness “radiance.”

  7. I think it is interesting and awesome that even though when he was a kid and couldn’t leave the city, he remained inspired and interested in nature and portraying it in art. Perhaps his experience with WWII made him want to express tranquility and try to get himself and other people to relax after having such a traumatic childhood. I think I need to lighten up color in my pictures, be more free with the pastel and not worry so much about the abstractness.

  8. Like m24cedes I thought that the most interesting art history fact is that Michelangelo only signed one of his works and didn’t like to, so never signed any afterwards. My view isn’t changed very much now that I know what Kahn’s childhood like, but I think you could view his paintings as an effort to forget/escape/deal with what was going on in his childhood. Insight I gained by learning more about Kahn is to not sweat the small stuff, because he sees his vision loss and the loss of focus and details that goes with it as something positive.

  9. It is interesting to me that the motivation and driving emotion behind Khans work was a manifestation of mixed feelings toward his father as well a desire to break free from the war by focusing on nature in American landscapes. I like that he has a systematic, step-by-step way of approaching a landscape, and I hope I can incorporate that into my own art.

    • Kahn does in fact reflect on how adhering to set strategies can result in predictability. So, he looks to the outdoors for new approaches and solutions. He calls one of his familiar strategies the “petering-out picture,” where nature’s contrasts and details fade into diffused light.

  10. I’m surprised that being a logger helped Khan set his mind straight since it has very little to do with art or life. It could have been therapeutic because of its sheer simplicity, but it think that expressing himself properly with his art would have been a better cure for his various psychological maladies. I think that his childhood added the grim elements to his work, but mostly gave him something to express through his art. He was able to use his art as a tool to help counter his childhood traumas, and the traumas led to such incredible pieces. I really admire how he worked with instead of around his visual problem and turned it into a key facet of his pieces, creating a unique and wonderful style that still conveys his points just as well as a really tight, precise work would have.

  11. What do you find as the most interesting art historical fact and why?
    The fact I find most interesting is that when he went to log in the north west, his art came back to him and he was inspired to paint again. HIs history in Nazi Germany does not change the effect I get from his work, but as another person said, It is very interesting that he can connect certain events to each painting and retain that knowledge and history. The insight I got was that color does not always have to be bright or flashy or bold, also that nature or uncontrolled environments can at times be a little bit overwhelming, but it is possible to hone in it a more sterile or sanitized environment.

  12. I found that the fact that he didn’t change his name after the holocaust was very interesting. Although he referred to himself as a sort of anti-semite he still kept his jewish name. Knowing his background of being trapped indoors, the contrast of grays and bright colors become much more evident. He was a boy starved for colors, and he let his art work act as a way to try to grasp the colors he lost as a boy. I gained from him that my paintings should have less detail, and more of a broad idea that I find enjoyable.

  13. I think that his journey as an artist then leaving art behind and going to school, then eventually doing logging brought him back to art as he saw nature and the landscapes around him. I think his background in germany brings meaning to the experimentation he does and fascination he has with light and dark colors. I really enjoy how his goal is to move away from exact copying of the landscape and make it more unrecognizable. I also really like how he may or may not be painting an actual landscape, but he paints what he likes and uses the colors he wants.

  14. I think the most interesting historical fact about Kahn is that he want through a horrible childhood and tried to be someone else, but in the end he still came through to be an amazing individual artist. His history as a refugee changed my view point on him. From what I read he puts a lot of emotion in his work and I wish do do the same with mine.

  15. I found the most interesting fact about kahn to be the fact that he was deprived of nature as a child because of the Nazi regime. His personal experiences in World War 2 prompt me to appreciate how it seems to be reflected in the duality of both the light and darkness in his art. Kahn’s work shows how I could create multiple vision layers in a piece of work to evoke different emotional responses in an audience. I also saw the value in forsaking detail to emphasize the larger picture.

  16. I think the most interesting art historical fact was his anti-semiticism due to his childhood in Nazi Germany I found this interesting because although it didn’t really relate to the art he was producing it seemed really twisted that he would blame his own people for something that another group of people did. But it seems to be a very human response. I think his personal history in Nazi Germany definitely changed the way I viewed and interpreted his work because it gave meaning to the softness to his work, and his choices of vibrant color. I think that everything is affected by everything else and an artist’s history greatly impacts the content and intent of the work. I think that when you understand even on just a basic level an artist’s background where he or she came from their experiences it causes you to look deeper and try to feel what the artist was feeling and it makes the work more relatable when you have this basis of a human experience to connect it with. Something that I learned from him and his paintings is that you don’t have to be in nature to draw it and sometimes the lack of nature can be a better inspiration so that the emotional response of it can be conveyed rather than simply how exactly the leaves looked,

  17. I think it’s interesting that Kahn didn’t change his name, like many other artists did, to hide his Jewish faith. He still calls himself an anti- semite and tries to forget his past, but not to the extent of changing his name.
    I don’t view his work differently, although I do wonder if the reason he paints so many landscapes and nature scenes now is because he was not allowed to see those things under Nazi decree.
    I really like his technique of turning the photo around so he can learn something new from it and see it in a different way. This is something I might experiment with during class when we do our landscape painting.

  18. 1.I find out interesting about his painting style, the combination of realism and color fields. He find his inspiration in when he was in the forest.
    2.He got his inspiration by going to different places, his life gave him more chance, more talent for his art style.
    3.He let me know that there’s many ways of art, and you can use different styles of combination to express is with some”emotion”.

  19. 1. The most interesting historical fact about Kahn is how terrible his childhood in Nazi Germany was. It must’ve been excruciating to go through this, and undoubtedly affected his art.
    2. His history with the Nazis changes the way I interpret his work because it probably gave him a more bleak outlook on life, so if there is something in his works that can either be interpreted as a happy or sad thing, it will most likely be the sad thing. However, it could’ve given him more appreciation for life as well, so there could be that element present in his paintings.
    3. His landscapes aren’t very detailed, but are still very precise and distinct. This seems like it would be a lot more challenging than it looks, and reminds everyone that it is important to keep an element of simplicity in their artwork to make it more convincing.

  20. I thought that it was incredible and horrible that he couldn’t leave the city as a child, because I can’t even imagine anything like that happening in my life.
    Knowing his backstory makes me look at his art differently because I now know just how special nature was to him because of his childhood.
    Insight I gain from him is how a picture can mean so much more than that (I mean, I always knew the but for some reason his own experiences really reinforce that for me) and, on a more technical level, how to use bright, dramatic colors to create emotions and an interesting picture.

  21. I thought the most interesting fact was that he never changed his name. It seems to me that even though he felt bleak, he still had a slightly stubborn streak that made him not want to give in and do what would be most likely easiest.
    While I think that it is tragic how his childhood was affected by the nazis and kindertransport, I don’t think that it particularly changes the way I interpret his works.
    I though that the most important thing that he said that would give me insight was when he said that getting his vision impaired helped his art. I think that this really speaks to how it is the composition and colours that really matter, not the details, which I will have to keep in mind for the upcoming landscape.

  22. I found it interesting how he never seemed to completely identify with being a Jew, and even went as far as to proclaim that he was an anti-semite. This seems to contrast starkly with Chagall, who completely embraced his Jewish heritage.

    I think his focus on nature and landscapes, thinking it very emotional and noisy as a subject of art, was partially a product of not being allowed to experience nature in Germany because the Nazis forced Jews to stay within their own ghetto, but at the same time, I think he just liked the possibilities with nature, the city (such as Broadway) being to constant and “tranquil.”

    We shouldn’t have to be so careful and thoughtful about our art, and we shouldn’t have an idea of what makes good art. We shouldn’t always compare ourselves with other artists and think their work is better than ours simply because it seems more challenging. Kahn seemed to amplify this belief when his vision became impaired.

  23. His past as a student of abstract modernism intrigued me, considering he does landscapes. There is definitely still abstract/impressionist themes in his work, but the fact that he still includes concrete imaging in his work I find fascinating.

    His past with Nazi Germany seems to have affected how he sees the world. Not literally; his failing eyesight is responsible for that change. He sees trees, and they’re trees, but there is color and wonder behind them. His persecution brought out his sight for abstract beauty in the natural world.

    His work helps me try to see real, tangible things as more than they appear. I see colors and cohesiveness where before I saw just leaves. His portrayal of a forest almost seems more real than a photograph of a real forest.

  24. These landscapes show some really cool and somewhat different interpretations of art itself, and not just a different take on landscapes. There are some cool landscapes here. I think his past in Nazi Germany affects his art profoundly and he probably sees some profound stories in everyday objects. His art changes what I may think of as good art, and has a lot of meaning behind it.

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