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Woldemar Neufeld | Stories Told Best

Fall 2009

Curated by Suzanne Luke

 Born on November 10, 1909 in Waldheim, Russia to prosperous Mennonite parents, Woldemar Neufeld enjoyed a happy and carefree childhood. At the age of ten, he expressed his desire to become an artist. Unfortunately, his aspirations were cut short by the outbreak of the Russian Revolution and subsequent political execution of his father, Heinrich Neufeld, in 1920. 

The years following his father’s death were filled with upheaval, and devastation for the Neufeld family. In 1923, his mother Eliese Reimer married Jacob H. Janzen, a leading Mennonite minister, and within a year the large blended family emigrated to the community of Waterloo, Ontario. 

Now settled in a secure and enriching environment, Neufeld began to focus on his art. He attended Waterloo College, now known as Wilfrid Laurier University, from 1927 to 1930 and after graduation enjoyed a productive career as a commercial artist. He opened an art studio at 62 King Street South in Waterloo, helped establish the Kitchener-Waterloo Society of Artists, and studied in the evenings at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. 

At the encouragement of famed Canadian painter Homer Watson, Neufeld left Canada to pursue formal artistic training. He enrolled in The Cleveland Institute of Art from 1935 to 1939 and was awarded the prestigious Agnes Gund Scholarship for his portfolio of Canadian sketches and paintings. After longing to be in New York City, Neufeld moved there in 1945 and devoted himself to documenting the area and working with children in the settlement house movement. 

In 1949, Neufeld’s wife, Waterloo-born Peggy Conrad, decided to move their young family to New Milford, Connecticut. It was there that Neufeld established his final working studio, gallery and summer art school. In this tranquil setting, Neufeld excelled at his technique and produced a variety of ambitious works. 

Stories Best Told highlights the works of an artist who was a true documentarist and talented storyteller. Woldemar Neufeld’s vibrant use of colour, intriguing compositions and stylistic creativity, will continue to charm viewers for decades. 

A special thank you to Conrad Neufeld, Laurence Neufeld, the Woldemar Neufeld Estate, Laura Shantz, the City of Kitchener, Conrad Grebel University College, and Wilfrid Laurier University for making this exhibition a reality. 

 

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