Josef Wolf

1820 - 1899
Illustrator, Painter
Origin: Germany and United Kingdom
Born: January 21, 1820, Maerz near Coblenz, Germany
Died: 1899, London, England

Born and educated in Prussia's Rhineland valley, as a young boy Josef Wolf enjoyed observing and drawing birds and mammals on his family's farmland. Wolf was apprenticed to a lithographer at the age of sixteen, but after three years of uninspiring work, he returned home to work on a series of small, detailed bird drawings. This album of drawings brought Wolf recognition from book editors and museums in Frankfurt and Darmstadt. After working on several book illustration commissions, Wolf enrolled at the Antwerp Academy in 1847 to study painting. In 1848, Wolf moved to London where he helped illustrate G.R. Gray's The Genera of Birds (1844-1849), and quickly established himself among distinguished naturalists and wildlife artists. At the Royal Academy in 1849, Wolf exhibited Woodcocks Seeking Shelter, an oil painting commissioned by artist naturalist John Gould and praised by animal painter Sir Edwin Landseer. In 1856, Gould and Wolf traveled together through Norway to study and sketch birds including ptarmigans, golden eagles, and ospreys. Gould included Wolf's depictions of game and water birds and birds of prey in his large work, The Birds of Great Britain (1862-1873). Among Wolf's other great achievements were his illustrations for the London Zoological Society's The Zoological Sketches (1856-67) and D.G. Elliot's The Life and Habits of Wild Animals (1874). During the 1870s, Wolf's chronic rheumatism hindered his work and he died in 1899. As Landseer declared in 1849, Wolf was "without exception the best all-around animal artist who ever lived. When a good many artists of the present day are forgotten, Wolf will be remembered."

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Arctic Hares
1876, Watercolor
Josef Wolf
Germany and United Kingdom, 1820 - 1899
Golden Eagle
1862, Pencil and Watercolor
Josef Wolf
Germany and United Kingdom, 1820 - 1899