Zoological Sketches by Joseph Wolf. Made for the Zoological Society of London, from animals in their vivarium, in the Regent's Park.
Published by London: Henry Graves & Company, 1861-1867.
Lithograph with original hand-coloring
"WITHOUT EXCEPTION, THE BEST ALL-ROUND ANIMAL PAINTER THAT EVER LIVED" (Sir Edwin Landseer) Originally from Prussia, Wolf's paintings of wild animals are renowned for their spectacular use of colour: pinks, blues, and greens; for the astonishing realism of feet, fur, and feather texture; and for their detailed backgrounds, which often include smaller but still perfectly painted and fully animated. As a young man he was apprenticed to Gebrüder Becker, lithographers at Koblenz, where he was employed as designer, principally of trade circulars. A chance meeting with Eduard Rüppell, the ornithologist and explorer, "gave him an introduction to the director of the grand ducal natural history museum at Darmstadt, Johann Kaup. Wolf obtained employment in Darmstadt as a lithographer with the publisher Ernst Kern, and in his free time worked for Rüppell, executing drawings for Rüppell's "Systematische Uebersicht der Vögel Nord-Ost-Afrikas" (1845). He was subsequently given illustrative work for Hermann Schlegel and H. Wulverhorst's "Traité de fauconnerie" (1844), but an attack of ague forced his return to Darmstadt, where he attended the art school, going in 1847 to study at the Antwerp Academy. In February 1848, as revolution spread across the continent, Wolf went to London at the invitation of David William Mitchell, secretary of the Zoological Society of London. There he assisted Mitchell with a British Museum-based project, illustrating Robert Gray's "Genera of Birds" (1844-9); afterwards he assisted John Gould with illustrations for "Birds of Great Britain" (1862-73).