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Wolf Kahn (1927-2020)
Wolf Kahn (1927-2020)
Wolf Kahn (1927-2020)
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Fields of Vision: The Private Collection of Artists Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason
Wolf Kahn (1927-2020)

Down East Sunset I

Details
Wolf Kahn (1927-2020)
Down East Sunset I
signed 'W Kahn' (lower right); inscribed with title and numbered and dated '#1997/144' (on the stretcher); numbered and dated again (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
43 x 73 in. (109.2 x 185.4 cm.)
Painted in 1997.

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Lot Essay

The present work depicts the coast of Maine, where Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason visited each year.

In his 2003 memoir Wolf Kahn's America: An Artist's Travels, Kahn fondly recalled his first trip to Maine in the summer of 1961: "The comings and goings of the lobster boats, their gear, and the fogs drifting in and out before us, were enough to keep the eye and hand busy all summer. Maine had a great effect on me, with its deep and mossy woods, its multitude of islands dotting the way to the horizon, its great piney and salty smells and its people...we return to Maine every summer for at least a week. It is too beautiful to be left to all those other artists." (pp. 34-35)

During a subsequent trip to Deer Isle, Maine, in 1967, while seeking to capture the sunset over the harbor, Kahn's style underwent an important transition, as he experimented with pushing his palette and employing transparent, brushy layers of pigment. He later recalled wondering at the time, "How far could I go towards color without giving up tonalism? I wanted to have it both ways." (as quoted in J. Spring, Wolf Kahn, New York, 1996, p. 59)

Painted thirty years later, Down East Sunset I of 1997 pushes the power of color far past tonalism to delight in the glowing orange hues reflecting on the icy blue waters off the Maine coastline. With dynamic brushwork, Kahn not only represents the rocky New England shoreline and harsh ocean waters, but also invigorates the canvas with his own personality and spirit. Moored in the shadows, the sailboats along the horizon recall the privilege of man to witness this luminescent natural landscape. As best captured in this crespucular vista, Louis Finkelstein has reflected, "Kahn's paintings represent transformations of matter, not only of the paint itself, but also of the appearances of the natural world." (Wolf Kahn, p. 122)

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