Joseph Wolf (1820-1899)
Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 28 1/4" x 20"
Framed size: 35 1/2” x 27 1/2”
Signed and dated l.r.: J. Wolf 1864
Exhibited: Glenbow-Alberta Institute [now the Glenbow Museum], Calgary Canada, “Birds of Prey”
This luminous oil displays Joseph Wolf's mastery of light and form. His rigorously rendered figures are placed in a context that conveys a bright and open sense of wilderness, while reminding the viewer of Nature's brutality. Saker Falcons is a fine and compelling work by this exceptional artist. "The great thing I always aimed at," Wolf told his biographer A. H. Palmer, "was the expression of Life." Wolf believed that intimate knowledge of the living subject, its habits, and its behavior was the key to authentic and successful zoological illustration. As such, his compositions reconciled the categories of art and science in an extraordinary and distinctive manner, becoming dynamic images of animated characterization as wellas scientific documentation.
Wolf, who grew up in Moerz in Prussia, was the first of a select band of continental European bird and animal artists to be attracted to England during the middle and latter half of the nineteenth century. At the age of sixteen he left home and apprenticed himself to the lithographic firm of Gebruder Becker in Coblenz, where he first met his future patron Hermann Schlegel, then the assistant keeper at the museum in Leyden, a prolific author of ornithological works. After brief spells in Frankfurt and Darmstadt, Wolf went to Holland and settled in Leyden in 1840; he was soon at work on the illustrations for Traite de Fauconnerie by Schlegel and Wulverhorst. Working on this book on falconry, Wolf became an expert at portraying birds of prey, a flawless skill of representation that is in full evidence in Saker Falcons. After developing contact with John Gould, Wolf established himself in London, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy, met Edwin Landseer and other animal artists, and won the patronage of discerning collectors like the Duke of Argyll and Lord Derby. Wolf had a long and productive relationship with Gould, contributing plates to The Birds of Asia and The Birds of Great Britain, and Gould became a frequent visitor to Wolf's studio. The rapidity of the growth of his reputation was due, according to his biographer A.H. Palmer, to his power “of revivifying a dried skin and not merely revivifying, but showing the most characteristic and beautiful attitude and expression of the living bird or animal,” and this combination of animation and beauty characterizes Wolf’s Saker Falcons.
Offered at $185,000
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