Hans Wolfgang Kahn is born on October 4 in Stuttgart, Germany, the fourth child of Nellie Budge and Emil Kahn. His father is conductor of the Stuttgart Philharmonic and the South German Radio Symphony Orchestra. Shortly after Kahn’s birth, his mother leaves the family. In 1930, Emil Kahn marries Ellen Beck, a young singer who does not wish to raise a toddler, so Kahn is sent to live with his paternal grandmother, Anna Kahn. Kahn’s mother dies in Berlin in 1932.

Kahn, though separated from his father, brothers, and sister, enjoys childhood with a doting grandmother, her maid, and an English governess. He also spends time with his equally devoted maternal grandparents, Siegfried and Ella Budge. He is raised in privilege, surrounded by antiques and the family’s art collection. Kahn’s early interest in art is encouraged, and he enjoys using his art to make people laugh, drawing caricatures, as well as military and athletic subjects.

Wolf Kahn on his first day of school in 1934.

Wolf Kahn on his first day of school in 1934


Kahn’s father, having lost his appointment to the Stuttgart Philharmonic in 1933 when Hitler came to power, takes Kahn’s stepmother, two brothers, and sister to live in the United States. Because finances are uncertain, Wolf Kahn remains in Germany with his grandmother. He attends Philanthropin, the gymnasium (secondary school) of the Frankfurt Jewish community, for two years. When he is ten years old, Kahn begins private art lessons with Fraulein von Joeden.


Two months before the outbreak of World War II, Kahn, age eleven, is sent to Cambridge, England, on a children’s refugee transport. He stays with two host families over the next year and attends Cambridge and County High School for Boys.

Kahn’s three grandparents are sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and he never sees them again. There are no records of how or when they died. The only objects from either household to survive are Kahn’s drawings, which are gathered by his grandmother’s maid and sent to Kahn’s father after the war ends.

Wolf Kahn’s refugee transport documents, 1939


Kahn joins his family in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, where his father teaches at Montclair State Teachers College. After leaving Europe, Emil and Ellen Kahn divorce, and Kahn’s seventeen-year-old sister runs the household, cooking for five and acting as a surrogate mother to her younger brother. Kahn attends the Experimental Laboratory School of Montclair State Teachers College and other New Jersey schools.

Wolf Kahn’s refugee transport documents, 1940


Kahn and his family move to New York City and live on Riverside Drive at 102nd Street. He attends the High School of Music and Art, graduating with the class of 1945. Among Kahn’s classmates are Allan Kaprow and Rachel Rosenthal, both of whom later become avant-garde artists. Kahn spends long hours sketching animals at the Central Park Zoo and the Museum of Natural History.


Kahn enlists in the United States Navy and attends radio school. He is stationed in Chicago, in Del Monte, California, and at the Anacostia Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.


Kahn is discharged from the Navy and takes classes at the New School for Social Research in New York City, studying with the painter Stuart Davis and the printmaker Hans Jelinek.

Wolf Kahn in the Navy, circa 1946


At age nineteen, Kahn enters the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, located at 52 West Eighth Street in New York and in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Among fellow students are Jane Freilicher, Paul Georges, Robert Goodnough, Allan Kaprow, Jan Müller, Larry Rivers, Leatrice Rose, and Richard Stankiewicz. With the aid of the G.I. Bill, Kahn remains with Hofmann for eighteen months as Hofmann’s studio assistant and the school monitor. He is included in New Provincetown ‘47 at the Jacques Seligmann Gallery in New York, an exhibition of students in Hofmann’s summer classes, curated by critic Clement Greenberg.


Kahn attends lectures on modern art by Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. During this time, he develops a lasting friendship with painter Larry Rivers.


Kahn enrolls at the University of Chicago on the last of his G.I. Bill benefits and receives a bachelor of arts degree. He takes classes with the American philosopher Kenneth Burke.


Kahn travels across the country, working odd jobs, including harvesting peas at a Shoshone Indian reservation on the border of Oregon and Idaho and toiling at a logging camp in Deadwood, Oregon. He is offered a scholarship to continue studying humanities at the University of Chicago, but he turns it down.


Kahn returns to New York and teaches arts and crafts to children and teenagers in city settlement houses for two years. He takes a loft at 813 Broadway, near the corner of Twelfth Street, which he keeps until 1995. With Miles Forst, John Grillo, Lester Johnson, Jan Müller, and Felix Pasilis (most of whom are former Hofmann students), Kahn organizes the 813 Broadway Exhibition. Out of this exhibition comes the artists’ cooperative Hansa Gallery, located at 70 East Twelfth Street. Meyer Schapiro buys a drawing from Kahn, which leads to a lifelong friendship.


Kahn travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where his brother Peter is teaching art at Louisiana State University. Remaining there for six months, he paints rodeo encampments and levees. He exhibits paintings in the Hansa Gallery group exhibition.


At age twenty-six, Kahn has his first one-man exhibition of expressionist landscapes, still lifes, and portraits at the Hansa Gallery. It is reviewed in Art News by painter and critic Fairfield Porter, who writes, “The excellence of this first exhibition… comes as no surprise.” The critic Dore Ashton writes an article on Kahn’s life and work for Pen and Brush. Kahn spends the summer painting in Provincetown, living alone in a shack on Race Point. He is included in the Second Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture at the Stable Gallery in New York.


Kahn develops a close and lasting friendship with the painter Elaine de Kooning. The poet and critic Frank O’Hara includes Kahn in his essay “Nature and New Painting.”

Frank O’Hara’s essay “Nature and New Painting,” 1954


Kahn’s second one-man exhibition at the Hansa Gallery, which has moved to 210 Central Park South, is well-received by the critics. He meets the painter Willem de Kooning, who, having seen Kahn’s exhibition, gives him encouragement. They maintain a friendship. Kahn lives and paints for six months in Tepoztlán, Mexico. His work from this period is shown at Galeria Antonio Souza in Mexico City the following year. He develops a lasting friendship with Fairfield Porter. His drawings are used to illustrate Peter Viereck’s poem “Some Refrains at the Charles River” in Art News Annual.


Kahn has his first one-man exhibition at Grace Borgenicht Gallery in New York; he exhibits regularly at Grace Borgenicht until the gallery closes in 1995. The critic Thomas B. Hess includes Kahn in “U.S. Painting: Some Recent Directions” in Art News Annual. Kahn’s work is selected for the Fifth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture at the Stable Gallery. Meyer Schapiro notes Kahn’s work in his essay “The Younger American Painters of Today” in The Listener.

At a meeting of the Artists’ Club, Kahn meets Emily Mason, a beautiful young painter who is the daughter of the artist Alice Trumbull Mason. They spend the summer in Provincetown, absorbed in their work and each other. Kahn recalls this summer as one of the happiest of his life. His paintings change, and he begins what he calls “my love affair with Bonnard,” influenced by Pierre Bonnard’s taste for vibrant color and luminosity. Kahn is also greatly impressed by the dignity and self-assurance of another artist he meets that summer, Milton Avery.


Kahn travels to Venice to join Emily Mason, who is there on a Fulbright scholarship. They marry in Venice and remain in Italy for two years. A joint exhibition of their work is shown at the Galleria d’Arte San Giorgio in Venice. Kahn is included in The New York School: Second Generation at the Jewish Museum in New York as well as the Annual Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Museum of Modern Art acquires his work for its permanent collection.

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason in their Venice studio, 1957


Kahn and Mason live and paint in Spoleto, Italy. There, Kahn meets the painters Louis Finkelstein and Gretna Campbell, with whom he maintains lifelong friendships. Kahn’s work is included in group exhibitions in Spoleto and Rome. Kahn and Mason return to New York at the end of the year, and a one-man exhibition of his Italian paintings is shown at Grace Borgenicht Gallery. He is included again in the Annual Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which acquires his Italian painting Large Olive Grove for its permanent collection.

Wolf Kahn, Large Olive Grove, 1957-1958. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Wolf Kahn, Large Olive Grove, 1957-1958. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason on a gondola in Venice, 1958. Photograph by Wally Barker.


Kahn spends the summer on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and starts a new series of sailboat paintings. He exhibits in the 145th Annual Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and has one-man exhibition of his work at Union College in Schenectady, New York. In September, Kahn and Mason’s first child, Cecily, is born.


While a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Kahn develops friendships with painters Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Nathan Oliveira, and Wayne Thiebaud, and the art historian James Ackerman. He has a one-man exhibition at the University of California, Berkeley. His work is included in Young America 1960: Thirty American Painters Under Thirty-Six at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Kahn declines an offer of a full-time position at the university and returns to New York.

Wolf Kahn in his studio, circa 1960


Kahn joins the faculty of Cooper Union in New York as an adjunct professor of art, a part-time position he holds until 1977. He spends the summer in Stonington, Maine, and is included in the Annual Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.


He teaches at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine, where he remains for the summer. During that time he visits Fairfield Porter on Great Spruce Head Island, Maine. He is included in Forty Artists Under Forty at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He receives a Fulbright scholarship to Italy. There, he takes a studio and apartment in Milan for the winter and summers in Viterbo, near Rome. He meets and becomes friends with the conceptual artist Lucio Pozzi. He meets the painter Pat Adams, with whom he maintains a lifelong friendship.


A one-man exhibition is staged at the Kansas City Art Institute.


Kahn moves to Rome, where he has a studio in the Prati neighborhood, not far from the Piazza del Popolo. While Kahn and Mason are in Rome, their daughter Melany is born.


Kahn’s family returns to New York in early spring to find the city loft laws have changed and they can no longer live at their 813 Broadway studio. After some scrambling, the family is offered a walkup on Fifteenth Street. Kahn and his family spend time on Martha’s Vineyard.

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason with their daughters, Cecily and Melany, 1965


Kahn is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is commissioned to do portraits for the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1966, 1967, and 1968.


Kahn summers in Deer Isle, Maine.


Guided by a friend, the painter Frank Stout, Kahn buys a farm in West Brattleboro, Vermont, where he summers from that point on. Kahn exhibits at the National Academy Museum in New York.

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason’s Vermont farm in 2010. Photograph by Miles McEnery Gallery.


Kahn executes a commission to paint Litchfield Plantation in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.


Kahn has one-man exhibitions at the University of Nebraska and the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.


Kahn travels with his family to Kenya, and then to Italy. He returns to Vermont to spend the rest of the summer painting the landscape. Kahn delivers a lecture, “On the Hofmann School,” at the College Art Association convention in New York and gives a talk titled “On Being an Art Student” at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.


Kahn spends part of the summer painting in Corrèze, France.


As guest lecturer, Kahn speaks on the life and work of the painter Jan Müller, a fellow Hofmann student, at the Alliance of Figurative Artists, a weekly artist-run forum to discuss topics and issues related to the figure in contemporary painting and sculpture.


Kahn is included in Artists’ Postcards at the Drawing Center in New York.


Kahn accepts the position of chairman of the College Art Association committee to award the organization’s Distinguished Teaching of Art Award, which is presented to his friend Louis Finkelstein. Kahn receives the Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. He is included in both Hans Hofmann as Teacher: His Students’ Drawings and an exhibition of recent acquisitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


Kahn is elected a member of the National Academy of Design and a member of the board of the College Art Association. He exhibits regularly at the National Academy annuals.

Wolf Kahn in his Vermont studio, circa 1980. Photograph by Matthew Wysocki.


Wolf Kahn: Ten Years of Landscape Painting opens at the Arts Club of Chicago.


Kahn’s essay “Hans Hofmann’s Good Example” is published in the spring edition of Art Journal.


Kahn is invited to lecture on Hans Hofmann at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. His essay “Milton Avery’s Good Example” is published in the spring edition of Art Journal. Wolf Kahn: Landscapes opens at the San Diego Museum of Art and travels to four museums nationwide.


Kahn is elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He delivers a lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago entitled “You Don’t Have to Be Ignorant to Dislike New York Painting.” He is selected for the advisory committee of the Vermont Studio School (now the Vermont Studio Center). He is also an artist-in-residence for one term at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.


Kahn is commissioned by AT&T to paint five large paintings entitled The Four Seasons for its employees’ lounge.


Kahn’s daughter Cecily, a painter, marries David Kapp, an urban landscape painter, in May.

Wolf Kahn in his Vermont Studio, 1986. Photograph by Jean Davis.


Kahn is the commencement speaker for the graduating class of the Maine College of Art.


Kahn’s first grandchild, Millie Kapp, is born in March.


Kahn gives the commencement speech at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He becomes a trustee of the Vermont Studio Center and travels to Venice.


His second grandchild, Arthur Kapp, is born in February. Art in America publishes Kahn’s essay “Hofmann’s Mixed Messages.” Wolf Kahn: Landscapes as Radiance opens at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason in Mason’s New York studio, circa 1990

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason in Mason’s New York studio, circa 1990


Kahn is awarded the Benjamin Altman Landscape Prize by the National Academy of Design.


Kahn travels to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, to make pastels of sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. Kahn’s article addressing formal aesthetic values shared with young conceptual sculptors, entitled “Connecting Incongruities,” is published in Art in America. The Wolf Kahn: Exploring Monotypes traveling exhibition opens and circulates for three years. He designs a first day of issue postage stamp for the United Nations philatelic collection.


Kahn cruises on the Nile River in Egypt. When he returns to the United States, he is artist-in-residence at Yosemite National Park in California. He travels downriver by boat to paint the landscape along the Connecticut River, then exhibits the resulting works at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut. He receives the 1993 American Artist Achievement Award in pastels. He is appointed to the New York City Art Commission and named vice president for art at the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.


Kahn travels to Hawaii. He is commissioned by the Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, New York to paint a large picture for the clubhouse.

Wolf Kahn and artist Nathan Oliveira in Oliveira’s Stanford University studio, 1994


Kahn moves his New York studio from 813 Broadway to the third floor of 217 West Twenty-First Street.


A traveling exhibition, Wolf Kahn: A Dialogue Between Traditional and Abstract Art, opens at the Boca Raton Museum of Art in Florida. He delivers the eulogy for Meyer Schapiro at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He also completes a color etching commissioned by the American Academy for its 100th anniversary celebration. The monograph Wolf Kahn, by Justin Spring, is published by Harry N. Abrams.


As one of the founding members of the Hansa Gallery, Kahn is included in the commemorative exhibition at Zabriskie Gallery entitled The Hansa Gallery (1952–1959) Revisited. He is also included in A Tribute to Grace Borgenicht Gallery, recognizing his dealer of forty-one years, which is organized by DC Moore Gallery in New York. Kahn gives a donation to the Vermont Studio Center and the Wolf Kahn Studio Building is named after him. All in a Family at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut, includes the paintings of Kahn; his wife, Emily Mason; his mother-in-law, Alice Trumbull Mason; his daughter Cecily Kahn; his son-in-law David Kapp; and his brother Peter Kahn.

Grace Borgenicht Gallery exhibition ad from 1979


The Vermont Arts Council presents Wolf Kahn with the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts. The Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, commissions Kahn to paint in the South. Wolf Kahn: Southern Landscapes opens at the Morris Museum of Art, where Kahn also delivers a lecture entitled “Seven Good Reasons Not to Paint the Landscape.” As a guest lecturer at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, Kahn speaks on “Intention, Control, and Spontaneity in the Making of Painting.” Kahn gives a plenary lecture on “Artists’ Inspiration” at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Toronto. He directs a workshop at the Palazzo Corsini in Florence, Italy.


In June, he is an invited artist-in-residence at the Vermont Studio Center, which he has visited for the past fifteen consecutive years. In September, he gives a workshop in Damme, Belgium, which he will describe in an article published in Travel + Leisure magazine in 2009. He lectures on landscape-painting problems at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and speaks on a panel entitled “Jackson Pollock” at the National Academy Museum.


Kahn receives an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. In July, Kahn travels with his daughter Melany to Namibia, where he is drawn to the dry, brushy landscape. He spends three weeks touring the country doing pastel studies that become a major influence on his painting style. Wolf Kahn: 50 Years of Pastels is organized by the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina and then travels to the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach, Virginia; the Hickory Museum of Art in Hickory, North Carolina; and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. Wolf Kahn: Pastels is published by Harry N. Abrams.


Kahn is the honoree at a National Academy benefit. His daughter Melany marries Bo Foard in September, and they settle in New Hampshire with Bo’s two children, Emily and Cooper. Kahn travels to New Orleans to begin work for a show featuring Kahn’s depictions of the trees of New Orleans at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. He has numerous solo shows, including a major exhibition of his work in Hamburg, Germany. The German show takes place at Galerie Brockstedt and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, which has a reproduction of the music room from Kahn’s great aunt’s mansion in its courtyard. This is Kahn’s first time back in Germany since the war. It becomes a personal homecoming for him, generating much publicity.


A new grandson, Mason Foard, is born three days before Kahn’s seventy-fifth birthday. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art in Ogunquit, Maine hosts an exhibition of Kahn’s work. He is awarded an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from Union College in Schenectady, New York. Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts hosts the exhibition A Shared Passion for Color: Artists Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason, as well as his lecture “Six Reasons Not to Paint a Landscape.”


Wolf Kahn’s America: An Artist’s Travels is published by Harry N. Abrams. The publication is the topic when Kahn is a participating artist in the Artists Talk on Art panel series in New York City. Kahn has his first show with Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe in New York (now Miles McEnery Gallery).


The National Academy invites Kahn to curate a major exhibition entitled The Artist’s Eye: Wolf Kahn as Curator. A special exhibition of Kahn’s own work, Wolf Kahn: Nature and Color, is presented in an adjacent gallery. Kahn appears on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Front Porch and Vermont PBS Television’s Profile.


A new granddaughter, Ally Foard, is born in October. Kahn travels to Niagara Falls. There he creates many paintings and pastels, some of which are done from the vantage points of earlier American painters, including Frederic Edwin Church and George Inness. The filmmaker Alan Dater creates a short film of Kahn’s time at Niagara Falls. Kahn delivers a lecture at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., “Art and Immorality.”

Wolf Kahn and his Vermont studio, 2005. Photograph by Miles McEnery Gallery.


The National Academy of Design presents Kahn with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Wolf Kahn Day is declared in Vermont by Governor Jim Douglas and the Brattleboro selectmen and is celebrated with a large party around his exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. Kahn gives a lecture at the Brattleboro Museum entitled “The Uses and Misuses of Painting,” and gives a lecture entitled “Growing Up Privileged, and Jewish, in Nazi Germany,” at the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire. He travels to New Orleans to do post–Hurricane Katrina pastel drawings of the same trees he drew in 2001. These new pastels are exhibited alongside the earlier drawings at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The Niagara Falls work and Dater’s 2005 film are exhibited together at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University in Niagara Falls, New York. The Provincetown Art Association and Museum exhibits Kahn’s early works, many of which were created during his years studying in Provincetown under Hans Hofmann. The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, hosts the exhibition Wolf Kahn’s Barns. Kahn appears on WICN Public Radio’s Inquiry.


Kahn celebrates his fiftieth wedding anniversary with Emily Mason in March and his eightieth birthday in October. Art in America publishes the journal of his 2006 visit to New Orleans.

Severe Pink Sky in Wolf Kahn’s New York studio, 2007. Photograph by Miles McEnery Gallery.


Kahn delivers a lecture at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., “Subject Matters.” A visit to Wyoming and Montana includes time in Yellowstone National Park.


Kahn gives a lecture at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, “Are Artists Special?” He travels to Turkey and the Netherlands, and he does a series of barns based on the ones he sees in the Netherlands.


Kahn delivers a lecture at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, “Can Art Be Taught?” He travels to Turkey. Wolf Kahn: Pastels opens at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia.


The main gallery of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center is named the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Gallery in honor of their commitment to the institution over its forty-year existence. Additionally, the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center hosts an exhibition of Kahn’s pastels. An expanded second edition of Wolf Kahn by Justin Spring is published by Harry N. Abrams, fifteen years after the original publication. It includes a new essay by Karen Wilkin.


Kahn gives a lecture entitled “Planning and Spontaneity” at both the Vermont Studio Center and the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. An interview from Story Preservation Initiative is included in Inspired Lives, airs on New Hampshire Public Radio, and is posted online. Kahn is presented with an Alumni Professional Achievement Award by the University of Chicago.

Wolf Kahn sketching at the Matt Farm in Vermont, 2013. Photograph by Ray Ruseckas.

Wolf Kahn sketching at the Matt Farm in Vermont, 2013. Photograph by Ray Ruseckas.


Kahn presents a lecture at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, “Control and Letting Go.” A survey exhibition, Six Decades, is held at Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe (now Miles McEnery Gallery).


Kahn receives the U.S. Department of State’s International Medal of Arts. He celebrates his ninetieth birthday in Vermont.

Wolf Kahn receives the U.S. Department of State’s International Medal of Arts, 2017. Photograph by Tony Powell.

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason at Kahn’s Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe opening, 2017. Photograph by Jeff Burkett.


Kahn and his wife of sixty-two years, the artist Emily Mason, are each awarded the honorary degree of doctor of arts from Marlboro College in Vermont. Emily Mason dies on December 10th.


Kahn dies on March 15th at the age of ninety-two.

Wolf Kahn’s New York studio, 2020. Photograph by Christopher Burke, courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery.

From Wolf Kahn: Paintings and Pastels, 2010-2020, published in 2020 by Rizzoli Electa, a division of Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. © by Wolf Kahn Foundation.