William F. Wolff Biography

William F. Wolff




William Wolff was born in San Francisco on December 30, 1922. He attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) from 1939 to 1943 and, following his service in World War II, he earned his Bachelor's (1950) and Master's (1951) degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. Additional studies took place at Mills College with Max Beckmann, whose style greatly influenced Wolff's art throughout the rest of his career, and mentorships with Gordon Cook in etching (1968), Richard Graf in lithography (1969), and with political graphic artist Rupert Garcia (1987-88). Wolff's first major exhibition took place in 1951 at the Lucien Labaudt Gallery, which focused primarily on the works of the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Throughout his career he would exhibit widely in the Bay Area, U.S., and abroad. He was an active member of the California Society of Printmakers and the Graphic Arts Workshop, and devoted many years teaching art at the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center. 

In Wolff's work you will find enigmatic figures, intellectual humor, and intriguing subject matter expressed in a bold, rough, dynamic manner. Therese Heyman, currently Curator for Special Projects at the Oakland Museum of California, was introduced to Wolff's prints early in her career. Of his work she has said, 'Today I continue to find added skill in their intensity and more effective line drawing. William Wolff's prints contain strong linear outlines, emphatic shapes, all done in his assured figurative manner.'

In 2001 William Wolff donated over 50 primarily religious works on paper to the Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College of California. The gift includes his 8-print series Witnesses of the Apocalypse, as well as images relating to passages found in both the Old and New Testaments, in media such as etching, lithograph and woodcut. His work is held in the collections of the Achenbach at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Oakland Museum of California, and the Library of Congress. In 2002, a major retrospective of his work was held at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California. 

Wolff died in San Francisco on OCtober 29, 2004. A complete chronological biography and list of exhibitions, collections, and awards can be found on the artist's website.