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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Art of Sulamith Wulfing


I was a teenager when I first discovered the art of Sulamith Wulfing (1901-1989).  I found her work absolutely enchanting and spent what money I had of my own on prints and posters that could be used to decorate my bedroom walls.

A Christmas illustration by Sulamith Wulfing can be found here.


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I'm not going to provide a potted history of Sulamith Wulfing's life.  There is enough online information available should anyone wish to find out more about her, including this Wikipedia Biography .  Instead what I thought I'd do is share some of my favourite examples of her work.  (This is just a small sample of her beautiful and complex art.)


Two thoughts struck me when I looked at these prints again recently.  The first is how timeless they are.  If I did not know when they were drawn I would find it very difficult to place them in any historical context.  To me they evoke the 1970's because that is the decade when I first saw them and I associate her work very much with that time.  In fact, the examples shown here were all completed between the 1930's and 1950's.  To my mind though they belong to a time outside time and this is what makes them so powerful.  


The second thought I had when studying these works again is how universal they are.  Sulamith Wulfing was a German artist, but I don't find her work limited to a single region.  The Wikipedia entry mentions that some of the patterns on the clothing and furniture resemble Norse knot-work.  From my perspective I've always thought there is a distinctly Celtic influence, especially in the designs on the dresses and material.  I love her imagery - it creates a world that is spiritual and ethereal but also firmly rooted in the beauty of nature.  


Looking these images across a gulf of many years has also made me realise what an incredible journey I have experienced myself - from the southernmost tip of Africa to my current surroundings at the edge of a fairy forest in the mountains of Ireland.  When I bought these prints I had no inkling of the direction my life would take.  In many respects I've always felt the driving force behind events as they have unfolded was not mine - I've been carried along by a tide that has been outside my control.  And yet, somehow at the end of it all, I've found myself in a geographical environment that is perhaps the closest it is possible to be in this world to the surroundings depicted in these scenes.      




Detail of the figure above:




This painting called 'The Veil' is perhaps my favourite of them all.  Here is a close-up of the figure - I love the detail on the chair and the burnt out candles.



  

I was so in awe of Sulamith Wulfing's art that I spent quite a lot of time studying and copying it in my teens.  I've mentioned before that when I draw, colour or copy something I'm able to escape almost physically into that world, and this was a magical place to venture into.

Unfinished study based on a Sulamith Wulfing painting 
The head on the right of this drawing is copied from 'The Veil' shown above.  The other figure is copied from a work I have not included here as the print I have is far too big to fit into my small scanner.



I've also mentioned in at least one previous post that I was fairly obsessed as a teenager with designing my own (opulent fairytale) wedding.  Sulamith Wulfing's work gave me masses of inspiration.  The two scans below should be one image but it is too big so I've split in in half.  This was my dream wedding and I've drawn a bride, flower girl, maid of honour and bridesmaid.



Another variation of the maid of honour and bridesmaid.  I was fairly adamant that this was what I wanted!


The next figure (also a bride) was not copied directly from a Sulamith Wulfing drawing but was certainly inspired by her.  Bear in mind that I was a teenager when I did these so hopefully that excuses some of my excessive exuberance!


I don't think this last drawing is linked to anything by Sulamith Wulfing, but as I have it kept together with the one above and it has a medieval theme I decided to include it as well.


Again I've included these photos in bridal related posts before, but I'm finishing with them as they show that even though my wedding (both the ceremony and reception were held in my mom's garden in Everton, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa) was a fairytale occasion I did not in the end manage the opulent medieval pageantry that I dreamt of as a child and teenager!  (I was 37 when I married so long past the age of these flights of fancy.)



17 comments:

Donna Yates said...

Unbelievable! I am embarrassed to say I have never heard of her before. The beauty and mysticism of these works is impossible to describe in words. They speak to our souls and our souls understand. Thank you for sharing these. I, like you, see a lot of Celtic imagery in these. She was very in tune to something somewhere guiding her. Lovely, just lovely.

Sharon's Sunlit Memories said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed them Donna. You have responded to her work in exactly the same way I do. She does touch the soul in a way no other artist has managed to do (in my opinion). Even as a relatively young girl I was able to recognise this.

Shirley said...

The best part about blogging is that you can learn something new every day! This artist is so interesting. I'm so grateful that I can see. The world is filled with such beauty and Sulamith Wulfing has shown us some very beautiful images. I'm so happy I have found your blog. It has made my day delightful.
~Shirley

GardenofDaisies said...

Beautiful!! I love all the celtic knot-work. My favorite is the one with the children tucked under the angels wings.
I think I may have said this to you before , but will again... i LOVE ** YOUR** drawings!!! I think YOU should be designing paperdolls! Celtic, fairies, and Medieval weddings, etc... Your pictures are wonderful! There is a magazine for original paperdoll artists... have you seen it? (All the various artists discuss the tools of the trade and how they got into the business, what they did to get published, etc..)

Roger Lawrence said...

I have seen her work before but never tire of its beauty and elegance. Great post.

Darlene Foster said...

The pictures are stunning. I can see why you have always loved them so much. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Megan said...

Wow, those pics are indeed enchanting! I would have a hard time trying to pick a favourite. Wonderful post Sharon!

Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

Barbara said...

I became aware of Sulamith Wulfing last year when I bought a postcard size book of her drawings. I opened the book and fell instantly in love, so I fully understand why you like them so much. Your drawings are also beautiful; you are a very talented lady, Sharon! What a lovely way to start Sunday morning, thank you.!

SportyMummy said...

Wow! I really, really enjoyed reading this post. The prints are beautiful and I loved your interpretations, descriptions and your passion! Beautiful!

CraveCute said...

Thank you for sharing these beautiful images of an artist I was not familiar with. Her art is truly magical and I love the earthy, ethereal and organic connection. My favorite is the girl holding the butterfly! Your own drawings are just fantastic! I agree, you should be making some wondrous paper dolls! Your wedding photos are gorgeous!

Donna Heber said...

Hi Sharon,

I very much enjoyed viewing Sulamith's work. Her art is most enchanting with a dreamy quality. I must say I am not familiar with her. Your own sketches are lovely and your wedding photos are gorgeous! Such a beautiful dress. Thanks for sharing them with us.

ALETA WARD said...

I first fell in love with Sulamith in 1986 when I found a poster of "The Star" in a small store in Idlewild, CA. I have had it displayed somewhere in my home ever since. Over the years I have searched for info on her, but until the last couple of years have had little luck. Thank you for your blog. I so enjoy seeing her works.

Sharon Souter said...

Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment Aleta - I'm always glad to hear other people saying they enjoy the paintings I love. I'm thinking of posting another Sulamith picture at Christmas time - I have a couple with a Christmas theme - perfect for that time of year.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Your wedding designs are beautiful and I can see why Salamith Wulfing was such as source of inspiration. There's so much elegant line even in small details like the candles in The Veil. The way she renders the translucent fabric is really clever, she manages to get an authentic feel of translucency while using a stylized line, that's very unusual.

Gaby Sherman said...

What many people don't know is that Sulamith lost several children, which also influenced her work. If you look closely, you'll see the hands of children are often skeletal and their eyes often vacant.

Julie Kemp said...

I hope you don't mind me asking but at a local auction I recently bought a beautiful print by Sulamith. This is the first of her work I have come across and am absolutely captivated by it. My problem is that am having great difficulty identifying the name of the picture. Sharon, would you be willing to have a look at it and let me know if you recognise it?

Many thanks

Sharon Souter said...

Hi Julie ... if you want to email me the details I'll let you know if I recognise it ..... there is an email button on my sidebar....

Link/within

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