A landscape, coastal and marine painter both in oil and watercolour, George Wolfe found inspiration in the topography of Britain as well as scenery across Europe. His atmospheric works often featured beached boats, surrendered to windswept skies and other natural elements. George Wolfe was born in Clifton, Bristol, Gloucestershire, on 11 January 1834, the son of Charles Wolfe, a boat builder, and Ann, a dressmaker. He was baptised in Bristol on 23 February of the same year, and spent his early childhood years at Allens Court, Hotwell Road, with his two younger brothers, Charles and henry, and younger sister, Louisa.
By the age of 17 in 1851, Wolfe had moved to 9 Windsor Terrace in Clifton, and lived under the guardianship of Sophia Bulkeley, a widow and fund holder, who may have become his adoptive mother. Wolfe continued to live there possibly until his early thirties, by which time he had established himself as a watercolour painter. Wolfe continued to stay in Clifton during his artistic practice, and shared a studio for a time with fellow artist, Samuel Phillips Jackson RWS, who was also a landscape and marine painter.
They may have met through Jackson’s father, Samuel Jackson who was said to be the ‘father’ of the Bristol School of artists, and taught Wolfe privately.
Wolfe was fond of copying drawings of S P Jackson, and it is possible that Jackson travelled with him to the Channel Islands around 1858.
Although mainly based in the Bristol area, Wolfe travelled extensively. Many of his subjects were taken from within Britain, including Devon, Cornwall, South Wales and Yorkshire, as well as the Channel Islands. He also explored Germany and Belgium.
Wolfe exhibited in London from 1855 to 1873, and was successful at entering pieces into the Royal Academy between 1857 to 1867, the Society of British Artists from 1855 to 1875, and the British Institution. Using his passion for marine subjects, he produced a book of sailing barge prints entitled Wolfe’s Book of Barges, published in London by Simpkin Marshall & Co and printed by J Lavars, Bridge Street, Bristol, in 1859. He also applied to become a member of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1867, but unfortunately was not successful.
In 1868, Wolfe was living at Granby House, Granby Hill, Clifton. However, in the same year, he married Anne Mary Clement, daughter of Benjamin Clement, a Royal Navy Captain in Alton, Hampshire, and settled in nearby Chawton. They both remained in Chawton for the rest of their lives, living first in her family home, Denmead, during 1869, and moving to Malt House by 1871. In 1881, they were living at 85 Atton Road, which seems to have been their last address.
George Wolfe died on 20 September 1883, in Chawton, as is recorded on a memorial in the local church. His wife, Anne died a decade later in 1893; they had no children.