Back in December of 2015 I was exhibiting at an arts and crafts fair and I got to talking to this guy who stopped by my table. After a while he asks, “Hey, have you ever heard of an artist named Sulamith Wülfing?”
The question caught me a little by surprise (it’s not everyday that people want to talk 20th century illustrators, let alone bring up artists I’ve only just recently begun to study) and I said of course and that she’s become a “new” favorite of mine.
In fact, I’d been introduced to her work by Sam Guay only a few months prior. Honestly, I have no idea how I’d never heard of Sulamith Wülfing before that. Her work is right up my alley. It’s haunting, magical, and speaks to this delicate, graceful otherworldliness.
The guy tells me that he deals in estate sales, specifically antique books, and that he just acquired this nearly 200 page book of her work. He goes on to say that if I’d like it, the book is mine. He wanted the book to go to someone who would appreciate it. Next thing I know the guy has left the show, gone to pick up the book, and brought it back for me.
Other than a handful of images online I’d not been able to track down any kind of collection of Wülfing’s work and now here I am, thanks to kindness of this collector, holding a huge book with page after page of not only paintings and drawings but her complete biography (which just so happens to be as fascinating as the work itself).
Born in 1901, she had visions of angels, gnomes, fairies, and elves her entire life. Sulamith described them as incarnations of “kind-heartedness” and drew upon them as the inspiration for her work. She lived through both World Wars (and in fact she was told by Joseph Goebbels that her illustrations were unacceptable and that she must stop; she refused).
“What I believe in absolutely, however, is the immortality of the soul, the primeval personality which has still much unfolding and further developments before it. How this happens and how it has happened, that remains – in any case at this moment – a secret.”