Spotlight: Kahn’s ‘High-Intensity Landscape’

Spotlight: Kahn’s ‘High-Intensity Landscape’

Wolf Kahn (born 1927) forged a successful international artistic career in America depicting sensual and colourful landscapes. Moved my the  musicality of his childhood, his father was a notable musician, conductor, composer and teacher who fled with his family to New York when Hitler came to power and he he lost his position at Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra.

This musical discipline ingrained in, and indeed genetically-bestowed to, him can open the gates to his precise yet expressive style. Kahn is celebrated for combining spontaneous expressionism with a formal discipline of colour. This academic and precise explosion of colour was forged starting from his early years of formal training in Germany and England.

With single-minded determination, Kahn forged himself prominently in the American art scene at a very young age. When he moved to America from Europe aged 13 he was inspired to paint the boats and water on Lake Michigan where he lived. Determined to become a professional painter, he studied under German-American Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffmann (b. 1880) who he met when he moved to America.

By 1950, Kahn was forefront of a small group of artists fusing abstraction and representation. Most of his artworks are named after a colour or an abstracted landscape: ‘Orange maples’, ‘trees changing colour’, ‘the last glow of sunset’, ‘glowing yellow’ suggesting his thought process and purpose to paint.

‘High-Intensity Landscape’ (1998) is stylistic and vibrant, yet considered and methodical, typical of Kahn’s portfolio. Full of bold splashes of brilliant colour and simplistic shapes, there is an academic contemplation to his art. It is easy to see influence from the colour palette of the fauves, Rothko’s suffusion of colour and the spontenaiety of Abstract Expressionists in his work.

Now in his early 90’s, Kahn continues to paint New England landscapes at his home in Vermont and handles each subject with an appealing spontaneity that keeps every composition fresh.

A 2014 exhibition showed he has lost none of his flair for intuitive, sensual colour.