Graphite, watercolor, heightened with white gouache on paper, 13 x 9 inches
Sulamith Wülfing (German 1901-1989)
As a child, Wülfing had visions of angels and nature spirits, and began drawing these creatures at age four. As an adult she considered Jiddu Krishnamurti her spiritual guide, and believed his influence helped her through difficult times. The singer Stevie Nicks has credited Wülfing’s art with inspiration for many songs, and used one as the cover of an album (“The Wild Heart”). A video showed Wülfing art during the 2005 Gold Dust tour. Wülfing’s books, plates, and postcards are now rare, as are the early publications. Original drawings such as the exquisite present work are nearly unobtainable in the market. This example comes from a friend of the artist.
Born in Elberfeld, Rhine Province to Theosophist parents Karl and Hedwig Wülfing. The visions continued throughout her life, and directly inspired her paintings. She graduated from the Art College in Wuppertal in 1921, and in 1932 married Otto Schulze, a professor at the Art College. Together, they created the Sulamith Wülfing Verlag (publishing house). During World War II, the industrial area around Wuppertal became a bombing target, and Wülfing’s house was destroyed, along with many of her paintings.
Her family became separated during the war, when she received a false report of her husband’s death on the Russian front and fled to France with her only child; they were later reunited.
The mood of Wülfing’s work ranges from serene to wistful to deeply melancholy. The subject is often mysterious, with narrative elements at whose meaning the observer can only guess — exactly as the artist intended. In her own words: “To people attuned to my compositions, they may well be mirrors of their own experiences. It is because of this that I have left the explanation of the drawings completely to the viewer, so that they are not bound by my interpretation of what each picture should be.”[
Characteristic Wülfing paintings feature slender, fair-haired, fay young women with large eyes and sad or thoughtful faces, wearing elaborately patterned gowns or robes, and sometimes veils, snoods, wreaths, or jewelled crowns. These maidens are placed in outdoor settings of twilight woods and moonlit meadows, or in castle-like interiors with vaguely Gothic detail (stone arches, stained glass windows, carved thronelike chairs). Some of the patterns on the clothing and furniture resemble Norse and Celtic knotwork.
Brambles and thorns, moths and butterflies, feathers, leaves, and delicately rendered flowers add organic richness, texture and complexity to the images. Many of the paintings have a “fairytale” feel, with grinning dwarves and gnomes, knights in armor, dragons, and the like. Some have a holiday focus, usually Christmas or Easter. Several appear to depict the Annunciation. A black and white series portrays the Stations of the Cross. In the more spiritually-themed images, radiant winged beings appear to give comfort or counsel to troubled humans. Several of the paintings touch upon the theme of pregnancy and motherhood, while others echo the experience of loneliness and separation, and still others are indicative of love and fulfillment.
During the artist’s lifetime, over 200 of her works were published in the form of postcards by the Sulamith Wülfing Verlag. A large-format book with forty color plates, The Fantastic Art of Sulamith Wulfing was edited by David Larkin. Published in 1977, the book is now out of print. During the 1980s, a series of limited edition commemorative plates featuring Wülfing’s art were issued. Wülfing also created a series of illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen‘s story The Little Mermaid.
Early examples of collections of her illustrations include Der Mond ist aufgegangen (The Moon Has Come Up) (1933); Christian Morgenstern (1934); Die Truhe (The Chest) (1935); Der Leuchter (The Shining) (1936); Die Schwelle (The Threshold) (1937); and Die Kleine Seejungfrau (The Little Mermaid) (1953).
In 1973 Pete Sinfield, former lyricist of progressive rock band King Crimson, used the painting Big Friend on the front cover of his first solo album Still. The illustration reflects his interest in the balance between fragility and power, clarity and illusion. Stevie Nicks’s own fine drawings are influenced by Wulfing’s delving into rich mythic and mystic realms.
 Larkin, David, ed. (1977). The Fantastic Art of Sulamith Wulfing. Peacock Press/Bantam. ISBN 978-0-553-01135-7. OCLC 81460507.