Born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Karl Wolfe began his formal training in art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1924. After four years of study, he was awarded a European travel scholarship that took him to France, England, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. He returned to Columbia, Mississippi, and in 1931 was asked by the Mississippi Art Association to exhibit at the Municipal Art Gallery.
Wolfe began his career in Jackson by painting floral still lifes, but soon was inundated with commissions to paint portraits. In the course of this life-time, the artist painted over 800 portraits. Wolfe worked in many media including oil, watercolor, pastel, ceramic and stained glass.