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Sculptor Wolfgang Hubert Flor was born on January 29, 1928, in Silesia, Germany (now part of Poland) and was one of 10 million people displaced from that area after World War II. He became an art-seeking vagabond, traveling around Europe, touring cathedrals, admiring art from the Middle Ages, and dabbling in wood carving. In Hereford, West Germany, he met his future wife, Maria. He emigrated to the United States in 1951, and she joined him six years later.

He worked in odd jobs in different cities while pursuing artwork on the side. Searching for a permanent low-cost home surrounded by plenty of good wood to carve, the Flors discovered a rugged rock outcropping near Rock Cave in Upshur County. They built their house into the cliff and converted a barn out back into a studio for Wolfgang. As Maria later recalled, “We lived very, very simply, which was not hard for Wolfgang because he loved simplicity. We picked many stones out of the stream for our home. He was very peculiar and particular as the stones had to have a flat front and flat top so you could stack them and make a natural corner.”

They bought up old barns and other buildings, many made of difficult-to-find chestnut, and Wolfgang began carving. He carefully studied different types of wood to find the ideal kind for each project, preferring cherry, walnut, or chestnut. He sometimes used sulfurous water from old coal mines to stain his pieces. In a sense, his style was abstract realism as he emphasized his sculptures’ personalities and emotions as much as he did the precise details. Typically, he crafted clay models and then took weeks to carve wooden figures based on those. Maria commented on his approach, “Wolfgang felt we have good times and bad times; he sculpted hard lines and smooth lines to emphasize the balance between the good and the bad.”

His reputation quickly spread, and aspiring artists — many from local West Virginia Wesleyan College or West Virginia University — traveled to stay with and watch Flor at work during the folk arts revival of the 1960s and 1970s. Teaching young people became a lifelong passion, and Flor frequently served as an artist-in-residence at West Virginia colleges. His works began to appear in art galleries across the state and the East Coast. His Integration is on display at Twin Towers at West Virginia University. Other works by Flor are on exhibit at Glenville State University and at the West Virginia State Museum at the Culture Center in Charleston.

In 1968, West Virginia Wesleyan commissioned what would become his masterpiece: Twelve Apostles, lining the back wall of Wesley Chapel in Buckhannon. Flor collected all the wood locally, including old chestnut logs from a barn in Sutton. He also wrote short biographies of each figure, capturing what he considered the distinctive traits of all 12 disciples, including “Doubting Thomas” and “Peter the Rock.” These biographies guided his work and gave each statue a unique look and sense of emotion.

He produced one of his final works, The Family Tree, for Wesleyan in 2016 at age 88. He noted at the time, “Family is the more important thing in society, and I wanted to give it a monument.” He died on December 2, 2017, at age 89. Wolfgang and Maria Flor inspired generations of young people through their art, energy, and connection to the land.

Last Revised on November 30, 2023

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Sources

Yohe, Randy.. Wolfgang Flor: Master Sculptor. Goldenseal, 45, 1, Spring 2019.

Sculptor, 88, Produces New Work for Wesleyan. West Virginia Press, June 13, 2016.

Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Wolfgang Flor." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 30 November 2023. Web. 15 April 2024.

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