Wolf Kahn was a German-born American painter.
Kahn, known for his combination of Realism and Color Field, worked in pastel, oil paint, and printmaking. He studied under Hans Hofmann, and also graduated from the University of Chicago. Kahn was a resident of both New York City and, during the summer and autumn, West Brattleboro, Vermont.
Wolf Kahn was born in 1927 in Stuttgart, Germany, the fourth child of Emil and Nellie Budge Kahn. Kahn's father was a notable figure in the music world. He was a musician, composer, conductor, and teacher. Kahn's family was Jewish] In 1933, Kahn's father lost his appointment with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra when Adolf Hitler came into power and, with increasing antisemitism sweeping Germany, he and his second wife left with Kahn's three siblings for the United States. Wolf was sent to live with his grandmother, Anna Kahn, in Frankfurt, at the age of three. He stated that he began drawing at the age of four.
In 1937, the summer of his 11th birthday, his grandmother signed him up for private art lessons with Miss von Joeden. He drew every day and was inspired by military pageantry, Napoleonic Wars and prominent historical figures including Adolph Menzel and Frederick the Great. In 1939, when Kahn was 12 years old, his grandmother arranged for him to leave Germany for England to live with a host family, first with the John Wade family and then with the Purvis Family. As quotas for immigrant applications in the United States changed, Kahn was able to reunite with his family in New York City in 1940 at the age of 13.
In 1942, Kahn was accepted for his sophomore year at the High School of Music and Art in New York City. His drawings morphed into caricatures. Kahn cited David Low and Thomas Nast as his favorite cartoonists. His first job was graphics editor of the school newspaper, The Overtone. He graduated in 1945. After a year in the U.S. Navy after high school, Kahn first attended the New School to study painting under Stuart Davis. With the aid of the GI Bill, he was able to continue his studies with Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann at the Hans Hofmann School. He became Hofmann’s studio assistant by the summer of 1947 at Hofmann's Provincetown, Massachusetts studio. In 1949, Kahn was accepted into the University of Chicago's Hutchins Program, where he completed a bachelor's degree in eight months.
In the early 1950s he had a brief romantic relationship with designer and curator Sara Penn.
In 1956, he met fellow painter Emily Mason, who he later joined in Venice, Italy. They married there in March 1957 at the municipal building near the Rialto Bridge, witnessed by strangers and friends including filmmaker Tinto Brass. In 1958 the couple returned to New York City where Mason gave birth to their first daughter Cecily in 1959. In 1963 the family returned to Italy. Their daughter Melany was born in Rome in 1964. In 1968 the couple bought a farm in Brattleboro, Vermont where they continued to summer. Kahn died on March 15, 2020 at the age of 92.