Sulamith Wülfing: Allegories and Transformations

Another recurring theme throughout Sulamith Wülfing’s art is transformation.  Many of her figures are in the midst of change of some sort, often in a symbolic way.  Thus, her ‘young girls as budding flowers’ allegory applies here.  There is, at any rate, an element of the fantastic in most of her work.

Before I post the actual artwork, here is a photo of Wülfing as a young child, taken by (I believe) an uncle.  Certainly a relative of some sort.  I’m not going to label this one as it is already labeled with all the pertinent information: the photographer’s name is at the bottom right and the subject’s name and the date of the photo are at bottom left.

Sulamith Wülfing – Autumn Storm

Sulamith Wülfing – Blue Flower

Sulamith Wülfing – Circle Rounds

Sulamith Wülfing – Circle Rounds (detail)

Sulamith Wülfing – Easter Candles (1952)

Sulamith Wülfing – Everything Sleeps with the Little Flower

Here’s another of my favorite Wülfing pieces. I love the detailing on the boat’s prow and its reflection in the water. Simple a fantastic illustration!

Sulamith Wülfing – In the Boat (1941)

Sulamith Wülfing – Night is Like a Quiet Sea

Sulamith Wülfing – Night is Like a Quiet Sea (detail)

Butterflies and moths, being transformative creatures themselves, frequently make an appearance in her art.

Sulamith Wülfing – Nocturnal Butterflies

Sulamith Wülfing – The Circle (1938)

Sulamith Wülfing – The Circle (detail) (1938)

Sulamith Wülfing – Transformation

Sulamith Wülfing (title unknown) (1)

Sulamith Wülfing (title unknown) (2) (1932)

Wikipedia: Sulamith Wülfing

Sulamith Wülfing: Girls in Bloom

As a particularly apt metaphor for girls achieving womanhood, the blossoming flower has long been employed by artists and poets in this sense.  But Wülfing took the idea and ran with it, placing adolescent girls inside of flowers.  A couple of times she used the ‘flower bud as womb’ metaphor in the same way, showing translucent buds bearing glowing infants, but it is really the blooming adolescent girl that most fascinated her, and that is the focus of this post.

As we can see in this first image, even when the flowers weren’t birthing children or young ladies in her art, they were still often oversized, to accommodate the artist’s love for depicting sensuous details like intricate leaves and petals.  With the juxtaposition of flowers and girls, Wülfing was really in her element.

Sulamith Wülfing – Iris

Sulamith Wülfing – The Young Girl (1942)

Sulamith Wülfing – Development

Sulamith Wülfing – Development (detail)

Sulamith Wülfing – Sun Shined Over the Pasture (1932)

Sulamith Wülfing – Sun Shined Over the Pasture (detail) (1932)

Sulamith Wülfing – The Garden Child

Sulamith Wülfing – The Garden Child (detail)

Sulamith Wülfing – Flower (1931)

Sulamith Wülfing – Flower (detail) (1931)

Sulamith Wülfing (title unknown) (1) (1933)

Sulamith Wülfing (title unknown) (1) (detail) (1933)

Sulamith Wülfing (title unknown) (2)

Wikipedia: Sulamith Wülfing

Sulamith Wülfing: Angelic Presences

I have been sifting and sorting my Sulamith Wülfing folder and will be doing what is now looking to be a seven part series on her, the first of which was already posted. So, the second part deals with angels and angelic beings, which show up frequently in Wülfing’s art. Consequently, this post will be quite graphics heavy.

As I pointed out in the first post on her, she claimed to have seen angels and other mystical beings from a very early age. I suspect she may have been pulling the legs of many, many people, including her parents, who, being Theosophists, were no doubt pleased as punch to have a daughter who could see spirits, fairies and angels. Whatever the case, with the help of her husband Otto Schulze, who set up a printing house in sole service to his wife’s artwork, she channeled her eccentricities into a quite lucrative career. And whether she saw angels or not, she definitely had a knack for visually expressing these gentle, ephemeral creatures as sweet wide-eyed children, wispy adolescents or beautiful lush-winged adults. It is, however, the first two of those groups we are most concerned with.  Some of the angels here are adults, but these are protecting, guiding or counseling young girls in some way.

As you can see from this photograph of Wülfing and her husband, in her youth she was just a slip of a girl herself (quite a pretty one, I might add), and it seems she may have modeled for herself often enough.  Schultze and Wülfing had one child, a son, who currently represents her estate.

(Photographer Unknown) – Portrait of Sulamith Wülfing and Otto Schultze

Sulamith Wülfing – All Souls Day

I was planning to post only one of these, as they are the exact same image, but I decided to post them both because I think they reveal something interesting about how changing the lighting and color values can completely alter the tone of a work.  In the topmost version the colors are dark and cool tones prevail, giving the piece a menacing aspect.  However, the version below it is bright (too bright, really–some of the lighters shades are almost completely washed out) and the scene is awash in much warmer pinks, reds and faint earth tones, making for a much more inviting piece.  Remember this when you are photographing an artwork, especially if you’re looking to sell something!  Some of this can be corrected for in programs like Photoshop.  I do it frequently.  But if the textures of particularly detailed works–especially ones with a lot of exquisite subtleties like Wülfing’s art–are too bright or too dark, they can lose a lot of their impact.

Sulamith Wülfing – Angel and Child (1)

Sulamith Wülfing – Angel and Child (2)

Now here’s a piece where the colors and tones were reproduced perfectly!

Sulamith Wülfing – Caterpillar

Sulamith Wülfing – Child

Here’s another interesting thing.  This piece I have marked as a detail (meaning a fragment of the entire piece), and yet, unlike the others marked similarly, I do not have a full version of the image, nor have I seen it.  So how do I know it is a only a fragment then, you may ask?  Elementary: I can tell by the way it was cropped, which is badly, especially on the right side, making the composition rather cramped and awkward on that side.  I also know that Wülfing was too good of an illustrator to have made this mistake in her art.  Eventually I will give you all a simple lesson in composition, but for now just take my word for it.  Unless, of course, you already know a thing or two about artistic composition!

Sulamith Wülfing – Childhood (detail)

This is an interesting piece in that the lines are heavier than is common for her.  I suspect this may have been a piece created early in her career, but I don’t know for sure.  The image is also pretty badly desaturated, so that makes it seem heavier.

Sulamith Wülfing – Dialogue

Now this is more like it!  By the way, I am not entirely certain about some of the titles of these works.  Clearly some were crudely translated from the original German (not by me–if I’m not sure on a translation, I will leave it in the original language, and sometimes I do that anyway because I like the sound of the original title better than its English translation), and others had two or three different titles, depending on which website you encounter it on.  This is why I hate, hate, hate when people post images without citing all the pertinent info, especially if they fail to give the artist credit for his or her work.  I mean if they know it.  Sometimes people just don’t have that info available, despite their best efforts.  This happens with me often enough.  If I do not know an artwork’s title, and especially if I do not credit the artist, you can be sure that I at least tried to find that information.  But there are just too many people on the web who post art and had the information available to them at the time but decided not to provide it.

Sulamith Wülfing – Dream Angel (1934)

Here’s a good example of one where the title didn’t quite sound right to me, but it was the best I could find.  I know the ‘Eija, Eija’ part is right; it’s the part that comes after that sounds iffy to me.  Still, it is technically not grammatically incorrect.  It can be read as if the children were contemplating what their lives might be like if they were Eija–something like, “Eija, Eija, if we were you, we would . . .”  But here it takes a slightly different form: “Eija, Eija, were we you, we would . . .”  And so on.  This appears to be a funeral for little Eija.  Note the melancholy poses of the angels and the older child sitting by the barrow, as well as the musical instruments being sounded by the angels.

Sulamith Wülfing – Eija, Eija, Were We You

Sulamith Wülfing – Eija, Eija, Were We You (detail)

Another obviously cropped work.

Sulamith Wülfing – Fulfillment (detail 1)

Sulamith Wülfing – Fulfillment (detail 2)

Sulamith Wülfing – Moon Angels

Sulamith Wülfing – Moon Angels (detail)

Sulamith Wülfing – The Bud (1933)

Sulamith Wülfing – The Bud (detail) (1933)

Sulamith Wülfing – The Encounter

Sulamith Wülfing – The Encounter (detail)

And the best for last (in my opinion); this piece is one of my absolute favorites.  It’s simpler and not as dynamic as some of her other pieces, but what it sacrifices in dynamism it makes up for in elegance and a sturdy sense of design.

Sulamith Wülfing – The First Butterfly

Sulamith Wülfing – The First Butterfly (detail)

Wikipedia: Sulamith Wülfing

Sulamith Wülfing: Christmas Pieces

Merry Christmas!  From now until the end of the year I am going to do a series of Christmas-related art, since I have a bunch of it pulled.  Our first artist is Sulamith Wülfing, a German illustrator I have been fascinated with ever since I first encountered her work in a Bud Plant catalog several years ago.  Her work is romantic and spiritual in nature and highly decorative, drawing from traditions of art nouveau and the fairy tale illustrators of both the Victorian era and her own early twentieth century era.

Wülfing, the daughter of Theosophist parents, led an interesting life right from the get-go.  She, like William Blake (another artist she draws inspiration from), claimed that as a child she could see all sorts of creatures and beings invisible to others, such as angels, fairies and sprites.  These experiences would inform her art for the rest of her life.  Although much of her work was destroyed during WWII when a bomb struck her Wuppertal home, she managed to stay artistically productive and created and published hundreds of pieces before she died, no small feat considering the amount of detail she put into each work.

The artist clearly adored holidays, Christmas in particular, as she generated several Christmas-themed pieces.  Here are a few . . .

Sulamith Wülfing – Christmas Swing

Sulamith Wülfing – Little Gerda

Sulamith Wülfing – Crown of Light

Sulamith Wülfing – The Great Ball

Sulamith Wülfing – Untitled

Spirit of the Ages: Sulamith Wülfing

Wikipedia: Sulamith Wülfing