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Charles Welf

Charles Welf

(American, 1931 - 2000)



BFA, University of Minnesota
MFA Program, University of Minnesota


Charles Welf was called to creating art later in life.  He came to the University of Minnesota in his late 40’s and earned an Associate of Arts degree from the U of M’s General College, followed by a BFA.  He then entered the Graduate Fine Art program.

At the University, Charles was an older-than-average student with a strong personality.  He became close friends with the second-generation New York School artists who taught there—they were in his age group:  Peter Busa, Herman Somberg, George Morrison, Mary Abbott and others.  He became especially close to Malcolm Myers who taught printmaking and watercolor.

He was a good friend to Malcolm Myers during the late 70’s and into the 80’s.  In fact, Malcolm’s print, “Charlie Wolf,” was done as a wry tribute to Charles’ in-your-face humanity and for being an all-around “character.”  Charles helped Malcolm around the printmaking studio and printed the edition of “Scotch Laddie” under Malcolm’s supervision. Charles covered a 30-foot wall in Malcolm’s painting studio with Homasote® panels to create an enormous “bulletin-board” where Malcolm would tack canvases and watercolors.  Both Charles and Malcolm had a keen interest in estate sales—looking for treasures amongst the trash.  It was not uncommon for Malcolm to pull Charles out of art class to “hit a sale.”  They were great friends.

Charles Welf’s artworks are carefully painted and composed. The clearest influences he mentioned were Karl Appel (not for painterliness but playfulness in color and subject matter), Fernand Léger for compositional tightness and a somewhat machine-age, hard-edge feel, and finally Stuart Davis—a clear influence.  Of course, he was inspired by Matisse for color composition—especially the cut-outs.  

From the mid-80’s and continuing—when Charles’ artistic career was just beginning—he was taken chronically ill with several mysterious gastro-intestinal issues, then later diabetes, then dialysis.  He eventually died from complications due to kidney failure in July 2000.  As a result of his home-bound state, he was somewhat isolated from the “art scene” but spent the next 10 years working in isolation in his home studio—a true reclusive talent.  During this period of intense focus, he created hundreds of paintings and thousands of drawings.  He kept his inspiration going under his own power until his declining health eventually took all his energy—there is no new work past Fall 1995.

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