Muriel Sibell Wolle

Muriel Sibell Wolle (born in Brooklyn, New York April 3, 1898) was an American artist best known for her drawings and paintings of mining communities in the western states.

She graduated from the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts in 1920 with diplomas in advertising and costume design. After graduation, she accepted a teaching in position at the Texas State College for Women in Denton, Texas, but returned to New York. An instructor in Art at the Parson School of Design from 1923-1926, Sibell began looking for a teaching position in the West. She received a B.S. in Art Education from New York University, and later received an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Colorado. She was head of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Boulder from 1927 to 1947, teaching and adding many options to the department while presiding over its extraordinary growth.

She was not only the grande dame of the Fine Arts Department during the first half of the 20th century, but also an early champion of civil rights, accepting minorities into the FA program when some other programs informally declined to do so. During WWII, she mentored and championed the first black member of the fine arts honorary, Dolores Hale, and invited her to her home on many occasions during a time in Boulder when interracial socializing happened very rarely.

Upon her arrival in Colorado, she was struck by the beauty of the mountains and began traveling into deserted mountain mining towns to sketch the remains of communities that were fast disappearing. Her sketches and watercolors provide an invaluable record of the otherwise forgotten and lost ghost towns of Colorado and the West. Ms. Sibell also authored many articles and several books about the history of the disappearing ghost towns. She became a nationally recognized author with the publication of Stampede to Timberline, The Bonanza Trail, Montana Pay Dirt, and Timberline Tailings, which she both authored and illustrated.

Muriel Sibell was also an important part of the theatre community at the University of Colorado. She designed sets and costumes for many theatre productions, and preserved the programs and photographs of these productions. Through these activities she met her future husband. In 1945 she married Francis Wolle, a professor of English at the University, after a friendship of 18 years. They were members of St. Aidan’s Church, and Mrs. Muriel Sibell Wolle was active in helping her husband, who became an ordained perpetual deacon in the Episcopal Church following his retirement from the University in 1959.

Mrs. Wolle was active in numerous civic organizations, such as the Soroptomist Club, Delta Phi Delta, the Boulder Artist’s Guild, and received many honors and prizes for her professional work. She was chosen in 1947 as the Research Lecturer for the University, the first woman to be so honored. In 1976 Muriel Sibell Wolle was honored as an “Alumni of the Century.” To the end of her life she remained active in her community and continued to keep her artistic record of America’s mining past.

Muriel Sibell Wolle died on January 9, 1977.

The University of Colorado Board of Regents moved to change the name of the Fine Arts Building to the Muriel Sibell Wolle Fine Arts Building, in their meeting of April 20, 1978. This decision took place in the year following her death.


  • Stampede to Timerline, 1948
  • The Bonanza Trail, 1953
  • Montana Pay Dirt, 1963


Muriel Sibell Wolle Collection

This page was last modified on 9 December 2008, at 00:55 (UTC).

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