Lynn R. Wolfe's Red Cloud Roots and a Century of Creation
Born in 1917, noted artist and scholar Lynn R. Wolfe was raised on his family’s Webster County dairy farm near Red Cloud, along with his older brothers, Henry and Laird, and parents Clyde and Eleanor Wolfe.
Wolfe developed a childhood fascination with figural forms and would sculpt from the clay found near the family farm, while discoveries of arrowheads furthered an interest in archaeology. He graduated as valedictorian from Red Cloud and received his B.A. in fine art from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1935. In his final year of college he worked to pay the taxes on his family’s farm to avoid its foreclosure. At UNL he also worked for the Nebraska State Museum creating sculptures of prehistoric life and preparing fossils.
For many years he was known as Bob but adopted his given first name of Lynn in 1939, the year he also met his future wife, Arlene. In 1947 he received his MFA at Colorado University in Boulder, where he remained for thirty-six years as a professor and eventual chair of the art department. Lynn and Arlene were blessed with three daughters, all raised in Boulder.
Lynn Wolfe studied and taught throughout his life and worked in a variety of media, and his sculptures and stained glass windows were commissioned throughout Colorado. He worked from his Boulder studio until his death at 102 in 2019.
Lisa Wolfe, Lynn’s only surviving daughter, said that her father would have been “thrilled with the attention to his work” and that his family was able to return some of it to Red Cloud. “He was a big fan of the Willa Cather Foundation,” she added, “so I am pleased that we could find a way to let his art help support that cause.” Asked if by chance her father ever met Willa Cather, she said, “No, but he had a huge stack of her books!”
Regarding her father's work, Lisa continued, “My dad obviously was a prolific artist. Whenever he introduced himself he was proud to say he came from Red Cloud. So sharing a cross-section of his eight-plus decade portfolio with the community, supporters of the Foundation, and the local art scene seemed like a natural way to bring everything together. A number of these pieces were tucked away and only rediscovered after his passing. And a few were gems hidden in plain sight.”
Solstice Solace, a detailed and intricate, almost photographic image of curtains at an open window, was one of the pieces that inspired Lisa to contact the Foundation about donating many pieces from her father’s collection. Lisa said that the curtain series came from her father’s childhood memories of growing up on the family farm just east of town in the 1920s, and looking out the upstairs bedroom window.
Of note is that many of Wolfe’s expressionist pieces are signed at the top and the bottom so that the viewer can decide how to display them. “It’s interesting how people see his art in different ways,” Lisa commented. “He certainly encouraged that. He even signed some of his watercolors on two edges so they can be displayed as preferred by the beholder.”
Fond memories of summer visits to their grandparents farm and to Red Cloud “have always stirred deep, heartfelt emotions and a genuine connection,” for Lisa, her siblings and her cousins. “We are all glad that some of my dad’s art will have a permanent home with the Willa Cather Foundation—and that some of it also can be taken home by others to enjoy as much as we do, and with all proceeds going to the Foundation!”
The Willa Cather Foundation and the National Willa Cather Center will benefit for years to come from the generosity of Lisa Wolfe and her family in this very special and heartfelt donation.
Learn more about Lynn R. Wolfe’s prolific and multi-faceted career at his profile on the Modernist West website HERE.
Do you have an interesting collection with connections to Red Cloud or Willa Cather? Please contact Ashley Olson, executive director, at: email@example.com or 402-746-2653.