An oil painting by George Wolfe, the late Natchitoches artist whose whimsical creations were familiar to many in central and south Louisiana, has been donated to the Alexandria Museum of Art from Northwestern State University Professor of Art Michael Yankowski.
The painting entitled “Toy Store Window” was created in 1966 and was given to Yankowski by Wolfe’s sons, Phillip Wolfe and Michael Wolfe, both Northwestern State alumni. As Wolfe’s estate was being disbursed, his sons donated a vast amount of art and supplies to NSU students and faculty, Yankowski said.
Wolfe was a well-known artist, art educator and supporter of the arts who passed away Sept. 25, 2014. Philip Wolfe, Yankowski’s former student, personally gave him the painting, along with another in a similar style. Philip Wolfe approved of Yankowski’s idea to donate the painting to AMA.
“Mainly I wanted to get George a little permanent notoriety. Every artist wants to be in a museum,” Yankowski said. “George was a kind and generous man and an excellent artist. While he was a student and even long after, he would wander the halls encouraging students, taking a sincere interest in their work.”
A New Orleans native, Wolfe spent a full career teaching at the Isadore Newman School in New Orleans. After earning two master’s degrees at LSU and UNO, he moved to Natchitoches and earned a master’s degree in art at NSU. Last year, his family created the George Wolfe Endowed Scholarship to honor the legacy of the long-time artist and educator who inspired creativity in those around him.
“He is remembered for his encouraging words to students and as a very versatile artist in a variety of media including painting, printmaking and sculpture,” Yankowski said.
At one time, from Wolfe’s own backyard, a fire breathing dragon sculpture overlooked Bayou Amulet in Natchitoches. A life-size steel rhinoceros first graced the NSU campus and then Wolfe’s front yard on Jefferson Street. A devoted Methodist, Wolfe created a sculpture for the lawn of the NSU Wesley Foundation. He also created marching dragons for the Krewe of Tucke in New Orleans and authored a book on dragon construction titled “3-D Wizardry.”
The Alexandria Museum of Art collects work by modern and contemporary Louisiana and Southern artists and has a large collection of work by teaching artists. The museum’s collections committee reviews all work offered to the museum for its style, technique and relevance to the mission and collecting scope. As a talented artist and educator, Wolfe easily passed their scrutiny and the painting was gladly accepted as part of their permanent collection, Yankowski said.
“George was a wonderful colleague and I am pleased to offer this painting,” he added. “I am grateful that the museum realizes the importance of George as an artist and educator and that he will receive some level of recognition for his lifetime dedication to the arts and art education. His work belongs in this museum.”