I consider Sulamith Wülfing being one of my most beloved illustrators of all the time - ever since I found her works. What do I find especially exquisite in her pictures? The colours she used. The way she used to draw and paint hands and cloth. Generally.
Who was Sulamith Wülfing?
She was born in 1901 in Elberfeld, Rhine Province of the Kingdom of Prussia, as a child of Karl and Hedwig Wülfing. For her further existence and creativity, important was the fact that her parents were Theosophists (as wikipedia says: Theosophy refers to systems of esoteric philosophy concerning, or investigation seeking direct knowledge of, presumed mysteries of being and nature, particularly concerning the nature of divinity).
She began drawing at the age of 4, at the same time when she started talking about seeing fairies, angels, gnomes and other nature spirits. The subjects of her drawings, of course, were those visions. For a couple of the first years of her life, Sulamith and her parents lived in a secluded area and the little girl was convinced that they were the only humans in the world.
After she graduated from the Art College in Wuppertal at the age of 20, and 11 years later she married Otto Schulze (professor at the Art College), the Sulamith Wülfing Verlag was founded, a publishing house of her and her husband. The first exhibition of her paintings took place in the same city in 1923.
Unfortunately, during World War II Wuppertal became a bombing target due to its industrial area and many paintings of Sulamith were destroyed when her house collapsed and burned. Otto was drafted into the army and when Sulamith received a false message about his death, she fled to France with her son and her mother. They found each other after the war, reunited at Christmas in 1945 and lived a rather calm life afterwards.
She died in 1989.
As I've said before, it all began with her visions. Even if her later works didn't exactly mirror these phantoms, her earlier experience strongly influenced her imagination and effected on her later creations. They all have an ethereal and flowing atmosphere, with the mood changing from serene to deep melancholy, all mysterious. You can easily notice that a huge part of her pictures portray fragile girls and ladies with big eyes in their delicate faces, dressed in astonishingly detailed suits, usually inspired by medieval clothing. The ladies themseleves are most often surrounded by gloomy, uncanny nature sceneries or gothic-like interiors.
Considered also as an artist from the Golden Age of Illustration, Sulamith obviously used to have a great patience and gave a lot of attention to the details; looking at her paintings, you also may notice that she carefully studied botanical themes - she knew exactly what to do when it came to draw flowers, trees and bushes.
Her most famous illustrations are for Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid". Currently those books reach the price 0f even $400.
Prints and publications
When Otto Schulze founded Sulamith Wülfing Verlag (the publishing house) right after they got married, they mainly promoted Sulamith through selling postcards and calendars with reproduction of her paintings. But there were also collective albums - despite their modest covers and very little text (mostly just titles), they were remarkable inside - extraordinary reproductions, usually with a tissue guard to prevent any damage.
During her life, she had plenty of exhibitions and sold plenty of prints. However, there wasn't any "big" or "massive" campaign to promote, which is the main reason of her lack of fame.
The publishing house founded by her husband lasted until his death in 1976, but their son Otto Schulze Jr. takes care about her memory and publishes her books (like "The Little Mermaid") and collections from time to time. In 1992, a massive collection (hundreds!) of her works was put together with her detailed biography and photos to make a book simply called "Sulamith Wülfing".
There's certainly something really worth seeing about her works and once you see them, you definitely won't forget!
Source of images: photo of Sulamith Wülfing - gigart.ru
Illustrations - scans from my private collection of prints