William Scharf was born in 1929 in Pennsylvania. He studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under the guidance of the noted illustrator, N.C. Wyeth. During World War II, Scharf served in the Army Air Corps and afterwards came back to Philadelphia to study art at the Barnes Foundation and at the University of Pennsylvania. Later he went to Paris, where he attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. In 1952, Scharf moved to New York, where he apprenticed in the studio of Mark Rothko. Despite many influences, Scharf created his own style, expressive and evocative. His abstract compositions seem spontaneous and mysterious, conveying emotion through the choice of color, vigorous brushstrokes, and fluid forms with enigmatic shapes that suggest a nocturnal world. The Phillips Collection’s The Night is in the Middle (1986) and Of Valued Folly (1989) reveal Scharf’s knowledge of the power of color and form to evoke mood and meaning. His work resonates with other key works in The Phillips Collection by such artists as Albert Pinkham Ryder and Arthur Dove.
Scharf has had influence on younger artists as a teacher at several art schools throughout the country, among them the School of Visual Arts in New York, the San Francisco Art Institute, Stanford University, Pratt Institute, and the Arts Students League in New York. Characterized by a distinctive blend of abstract expressionism, surrealism, and individual vision, Scharf’s work has long been recognized and admired by artists and critics.