December 3, 2013
A current Millsaps College exhibit of 20 paintings by Mississippi artists Karl and Mildred Wolfe showcases original work held by the college along with artifacts and memorabilia on loan from their daughter, Elizabeth “Bebe” Wolfe, artist at The Wolfe Studio. The exhibit is in the Archives Gallery of the Millsaps-Wilson Library and will remain until May 9, 2014.
Karl and Mildred Wolfe
Portraits of Eudora Welty and three college presidents are included along with other portraits, landscapes, ceramics, mosaics and photographs. The exhibit may be viewed any time the library is open.
“I am more and more impressed as I grow older, by the things my parents were able to accomplish in their lifetimes and by their joy and aliveness and the vibrancy of the work they left behind,” says Bebe Wolfe.
Karl Wolfe (1904-1984) and Mildred Nungester Wolfe (1912-2009) worked in a wide range of media in their studio in Jackson, Mississippi, established in 1946. Karl Wolfe was a prominent portrait painter of governors and other distinguished Mississippians and taught art studio classes at Millsaps for 23 years. Mildred Wolfe, an accomplished artist when they first met in the 1930’s, concentrated on landscapes and scenes of everyday life in her paintings, teaching art history at Millsaps from 1957 to 1969.
They were the only art teachers at Millsaps during their tenure and left an enduring influence on their students, commemorated in the 2002 book The Wolfe Years: A Collection of Millsaps Memoirs, collected by Kent Prince, Class of 1960. Karl Wolfe stated to the faculty, “Skill is not what we want in an artist- we want soul, and next to soul, thought ... at Millsaps we reach for the highest level ... in reaching we stretch and enlarge our souls.”
The Wolfes became mainstays in the Mississippi art world after training at the Chicago Art Institute, the Art Students League in New York and Colorado College, and exhibiting their works in prestigious galleries in the East. In 2009, the Governor’s Award for Artistic Excellence in the Visual Arts was awarded to The Wolfe Studio in recognition of the remarkable continuity of the creative activity begun by Karl and Mildred Wolfe and their influence in the community.
While their body of work is held in private collections nationwide, much of their art was created for public spaces. Mildred’s portrait of Eudora Welty can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. A collection of Karl’s portraits are on display in Jackson’s Old Capitol Museum, the William F. Winter Archives and History Building and the Governor’s Mansion. The permanent collections of the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Lauren Rogers Museum house works from both artists.
Examples of their public religious works locally are the stained glass windows of the Belhaven College Art Center and the mosaics depicting the Stations of the Cross at St. Richard Catholic Church. Mildred illustrated a book of short stories by Eudora Welty, Morgana, and the original drawings are in the permanent collection of the University Medical Center. Mississippi Artist: A Self Portrait, by Karl Wolfe, published in 1979 and Mildred Nungester Wolfe, by Elizabeth Wolfe, published in 2005, are on display and in the library’s collection.