Experience Hamilton Achille Wolf’s ‘Annulation’

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

We hope you enjoy this painting from our collection. If you visit the museum, this work is on display in the Kerstein Gallery.

Hamilton Achille Wolf (American, 1883‒1967)
Annunciation, ca. 1930s–40s
Oil on canvas
40″h x 35.9375″w   
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of the artist, A1106,61.0001

In Annunciation, Hamilton Achille Wolf created an arresting portrait of a seated woman who momentarily pauses in the midst of her actions. A beam of light that shines behind the sitter, casting rays on the wall, appears to have caught her attention as she turns her body and glances to the right. The painting’s title makes reference to an age-old Christian subject in art and suggests that the woman might be experiencing a spiritual moment or revelation, though the exact nature of the event remains unclear. Wolf’s partial fragmentation of the pictorial plane into dynamic rectangles, which contrasts with the woman’s rounded bodily forms, accentuates the composition’s overall energy and movement while betraying the influence of Cubism and Futurism, two key movements of abstract art.

Hamilton was the son of printmaker Henry Wolf, who was one of the premier wood engravers of portraits during the late 1800s. Before choosing an art career, Hamilton worked as a bank teller and studied at Columbia University, New York. Wolf first received art instruction from his father and later studied with William Merritt Chase (1849–1916) and Robert Henri (1865–1929), both of whose works you can see nearby, if you visit the museum. Subsequently, Wolf enrolled at the National Academy of Design, the Art Students’ League, New York, and the Académie Colarossi in Paris. Wolf taught at the Los Angeles School of Art & Design from 1911–16 and served as Chairman of the Art Department at the University of Washington, Seattle, from 1916–18. In 1928, he joined the faculty of the California College of Arts & Crafts, Oakland, a post he held through 1938.