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Robert Adams Woolfe (1920 – 2004)

Colorado, c. 1950, watercolor on paper, 22 3/8 x 15 inches, initialed lower right, old exhibition label reads “Artist: R. A. Woolfe; Title: “Colorado”; Medium: watercolor; Price $100”; second image is from the back of the sheet


About the Painting

Bob Woolfe’s Colorado and the accompanying painting on the back of the sheet are tightly rendered compositions which demonstrate the artist’s ability to portray dramatic landscapes. Using fully loaded and strong-toned opaque watercolors to develop deeply contrasting light and shadow, Woolfe’s works have a cinematic quality. His process of editing imagery results in a highly realistic composition which captures the moment when the sun breaks through distant storm clouds to silhouette a distant town with a church steeple rising above the horizon. The foreshortening of the road in the foreground, the receding line of electric poles and the lack of atmospheric perspective in the background lend an air of super-realism to the scene. All of these elements come together to remind us of why Woolfe was an entertainment industry icon as a scenic artist for MGM and Disney. His art has been seen by millions of visitors to theme parks around the world and TV and Movie viewers.

About the Artist

Robert (Bob) Adams Woolfe was a Los Angeles-based artist who worked in the California Scene watercolor tradition. He is part of a uniquely Southern California group of painters who worked as commercial artists in the entertainment industry while also pursuing fine art. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Woolfe served in the Pacific Theater during World War Two as part of the Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron 131. While stationed in Santa Barbara, Woolfe met his wife of fifty-nine years, Lois. Woolfe left the Marine Corps after five years as a Master Sargent. After the war, the couple moved to Santa Monica where Lois supported Woolfe while he attended art school at The Art Center and the Kahn Institute of Art, both in Los Angeles. Woolfe began his long career as a scenic artist in 1951. He worked for sixteen years for MGM during the heyday of some of its most popular musicals. During the 1960s, Woolfe created iconic set designs for The Addams Family and Laugh In. Later, he worked for major theme parks around the world, including Knott’s Berry Farms, Legoland and Hershey Park. Woolfe painted scenery at every Walt Disney theme park and led the French crew of artists at Euro Disney. During the 1980s, he worked as a set designer and artist on Hollywood movies such as Black Rain starring Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia. Late in his career in the 1990s, Disney asked Woolfe to take a group of their junior artists to Montana to brush up on their plein air painting skills, as the younger generation was used to working with computer rendering and many had never been exposed to the traditional painting techniques employed by Woolfe and his contemporaries. In addition to his career as a commercial artist, Woolfe pursued his passion for fine art. As early as the 1950s, Woolfe entered works in juried exhibitions and competitions and was a member of, and won awards at, the California Art Club, the Pacific Palisades Art Association, and the Malibu Art Club. He also won awards at the the Allied Art Guild, Westwood Art Association, and the Ocean House Art Festival. In 1952, his work “shipwreck” won the first-place award for watercolors at the Sixth Annual National Veteran’s Art Exhibition. In the 1960s and 1970s, he continued to exhibit his work in the Los Angeles area.


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