Ulfert Wilke Biography

Ulfert Wilke




Painter, printmaker, art professor and collector Ulfert Wilke was born in Bad Toelz, Bavaria, Germany, on July 14, 1907. Little is found on his early art education, though it is known that he studied in Germany and Paris. In 1938 he emigrated to the United States, fleeing the Nazy regime, and settled in New York. He attended Harvard on a Carnegie scholarship and served as the director of the Art Department at Kalamazoo College in Michigan until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. He finished his degree in 1947 at the University of Iowa, where he would later become the founding director of the school's Museum of Art. 

In 1959 and 1960 he was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships to travel to Europe and Japan, the latter of 
which proved a turning point in his style as he took courses in sumi painting and calligraphy, the influence of which would continue throughout his career.  From 1948 to 1964 he taught at the Allen R. Hite Art Institite at the University of Louisville and various other colleges while continuing to create his own art and develop a private collection of art. In the 1960s, while living in New York, he became connected to the New York School of artists, which included Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Mark Tobey, and others. At this time his reputation as a discerning collector of modern art led to an offer of a position as the first director of the University of Iowa's art museum. He accepted the offer and maintained the position until he relocated to Hawaii in 1978. 

Wilke's art is held in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; the Chicago Art Institute; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Columbus Museum of Art, NY; the Whitney Museum of Art, NY; New York University Art Center; Philadelphia Museum; Museum of Tel Avivl Honolulu Academy of Arts; University of Iowa Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and many others. 

Wilke died in Hawaii on Debember 8, 1987.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
1943: Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
1956: Georgia Museum, Athens, GA
1959: De Young Museum, San Francisco, CA
1970: Des Moines Art Center, IA; traveling exhibition, Omaha, NB to San Francisco, CA
1974: Charles H. McNider Museum, IA
1977: Arts Club of Chicago, IL

1943: First prize, Delgado Museum, New Orleans, LA
1956: Purchase Award, Georgia Museum of Art, GA
1959, 1960: Guggenheim Fellowships