Emerson Woelffer

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Emerson Woelffer
Emerson Woelffer
Emerson Woelffer, Untitled, oil on canvas, 1949, private collection
Born(1914-07-27)July 27, 1914
DiedFebruary 2, 2003(2003-02-02) (aged 88)
EducationArt Institute of Chicago
Known forPainting
MovementAbstract expressionism

Emerson Seville Woelffer (July 27, 1914 – February 2, 2003) was an American artist and arts educator. He was known as a prominent abstract expressionist artist and painter and taught art at some of the most prestigious colleges and universities. Woelffer was one of the important people in bringing modernism to Los Angeles, when he taught at Chouinard Art Institute.[1]


Woelffer was born July 27, 1914 in Chicago, Illinois.[2][3] He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago between 1935 and 1937, with László Moholy-Nagy.[2]

In 1938 he joined the WPA Arts Program.[2] After serving in the US Air Force, from 1942 until 1949, he taught at Art Institute of Chicago.[1] At the request of Buckminster Fuller, in 1949 he taught at Black Mountain College.[1] In 1954 he taught at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

In 1959 he and his wife Dina moved to Los Angeles, California where they settled down in the Mount Washington neighborhood.[1] From 1959 to 1973 he taught at the Chouinard Art Institute (now known as California Institute of the Arts) in Valencia, California.[1]

From 1974 and 1992 he taught at The Otis Art Institute (now called Otis College of Art and Design) in Los Angeles, serving as Chair of the Painting Department from 1974 to 1978. In 1991 he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. He felt such a strong attachment to Otis that he left his estate to the college in the form of an endowment, to set up a scholarship fund to benefit future artists.[1][4]

Emerson Woelffer is best known for his boldly colored abstract paintings and collages with jagged forms. He also created sculpture and lithographs. Late in his career―suffering from macular degeneration―he began working in white crayon on black paper.

He died in Los Angeles, California in 2003.[3]

Emerson Woelffer's work is held in many public museum collections including at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Honolulu Museum of Art, the Montana Historical Society (Helena, Montana), Museum of Art (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah), Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Neuberger Museum of Art, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum,[5] San Diego Museum of Art, Yellowstone Art Museum (Billings, Montana),[6] Asheville Art Museum, Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center,[7] and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA).[8]

Personal life[edit]

In 1945 he married Dina Anderson, a photographer.[1] Woelffer’s wife, Dina, died in 1990 and he married Marilu Lopez in 1996.[1]

Awards and fellowships[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Marika Herskovic, American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s An Illustrated Survey, (New York School Press, 2003.) ISBN 0-9677994-1-4
  • Woelffer, Emerson, "At the Center + At the Edge, Curated by Brian Butler", Asheville, North Carolina, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, 2008.
  • Woelffer, Emerson, Emerson Woelffer, A Solo Flight, Curated by Ed Ruscha, Valencia, California, California Institute of the Arts, 2003.
  • Woelffer, Emerson, Emerson Woelffer, Profile of the Artist, 1947-1981, Fullerton, California, California State University, 1982.
  • Woelffer, Emerson, A Modernist Odyssey: Fifty Years of Works on Paper, Los Angeles, California, Otis College of Art and Design, 1982.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Emerson Woelffer, 88; Abstract Artist, Teacher". Los Angeles Times. 2003-02-05. Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  2. ^ a b c "Emerson Woelffer biography". www.artnet.com. Retrieved 2019-09-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b "Emerson Woelffer". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  4. ^ "Emerson Woelffer Estate Works". Otis College of Art and Design. Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  5. ^ "Emerson Woelffer". portlandartmuseum.us. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  6. ^ "Poindexter Collection". Yellowstone Art Museum. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  7. ^ "Selections from Our Collection: Emerson Woelffer, Slide 9/54". Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. 2012-06-23. Retrieved 2019-09-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Collection: Emerson Woelffer". www.sfmoma.org. Retrieved 2019-09-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Emerson Seville Woelffer". Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  10. ^ Princenthal, Nancy; Dowley, Jennifer (2001). A creative legacy : a history of the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists' Fellowship Program, 1966-1995. UMass Amherst Libraries. New York : H.N. Abrams in association with the National Endowment for the Arts. ISBN 9780810941700.
  11. ^ "'LIGHTSTICK' OF ILLUSION". Los Angeles Times. 1987-10-25. Retrieved 2019-09-12.

External links[edit]