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Ada Wolfe (1878 - 1945)

Ada Augusta Wolfe was born in Oakland, California on May 7, 1878. When she was 11 years old, her family moved to Minneapolis where she would later study at the Minneapolis School of Art under Robert Koehler, Gustav von Schlegel and Gustave Goetsch.  She continued her artistic training at the Art Students League in New York, under William Merritt Chase, Frank Vincent DuMond and F. Luis Mora.  Her favorite painters at this time were Rembrandt and Cezanne.

In 1914, her painting “Sails on Lake Minnetonka” won first prize at the Minnesota State Fair and she continued to exhibit at the fair almost every year after that until her death. In addition to numerous other awards throughout her career, she was honored with a special show at the Minnesota State Fair in 1941.  Due to her early death in 1945, most of her work was dispersed throughout private collections and thus has not been readily available.

Wolfe's artistic philosophy was highlighted in a lengthy interview published in the Minneapolis Tribune on April 2, 1916, in which she said, "I hate sentiment in art.  Art, above everything else, needs absolute freedom for its growth. If you want to be a painter, then first be a rebel against anything which has a tendency to enslave you. Your attitude of mind is what counts in the long run. Commercialism of any kind kills art."

Early in her career, Wolfe used short, broken brushstrokes and, at times, thickly applied paint. In her later work, she painted with bold fluid lines; these paintings seem to dissolve in a swirl of color.


Wolfe taught art in the Minneapolis schools and at the Twin Cities Art Institute.  She lived in the family home at 2007 Willow Avenue in north Minneapolis until her death on October 4, 1945, at the age of 67.


Ada Wolfe is featured, along with seven other renowned Minnesota artists (Wanda Gag, Frances GreenmanClara Mairs, Alice Hugy, Elsa Laubach Jemne, Evelyn Raymond and Jo Lutz Rollins), in a book entitled "Pioneer Modernists - Minnesota's First Generation of Women Artists."  This beautiful book, published by Afton Press, is available for purchase at Gallery 5004.

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