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Douglas Volk and Leonard Wells Volk papers, circa 1858-1965, 2008, bulk circa 1870-1935

Douglas Volk and Leonard Wells Volk papers, circa 1858-1965, 2008, bulk circa 1870-1935

Volk, Douglas, 1856-1935

Painter

This site provides access to the papers of Douglas Volk in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2017, and total 15,065 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 11.4 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter and teacher Douglas Volk (1856-1935) and his father, sculptor Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895), measure 11.4 linear feet and date from circa 1858-1965, 2008, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1870-1935. Douglas Volk's papers document his life and career through biographical material, family and professional correspondence, writings and notes, diaries and journals, financial records, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork and sketchbooks, and photographs of the artist, his family, friends, and artwork. The papers also provide documentation of the formation and operations of the Sabatos Handicraft Society established with Marion Volk from the Volk's summer home, Hewnoaks, in Center Lovell, Maine. Scattered documentation of the life and work of Leonard Wells Volk, is found in biographical material, land records, letters, memoirs, and photographs.

Biographical/Historical Note

Chicago sculptor Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895) created one of only two life masks of Abraham Lincoln. His son, painter and teacher Douglas Volk (1856-1935), was known for his figure and portrait paintings. Full name is Stephen Arnold Douglas Volk.

Provenance

Most of the material was donated in 2004-2005 by Jessie J. Volk, the daughter-in-law of Douglas Volk, who also bequeathed the Volk estate including additional Volk papers to the University of Maine. In 2006, University officials arranged for an auction of much of the property of the estate including the remaining family papers. The Volk Family estate auction was conducted by Cyr Auction Co., in Gray, Maine, on July 19, 2006. Several individuals purchased parts of the papers at that auction and subsequently donated them to the Archives. Those donors are: David Wright, who acquired the 1875 journal and Brush letters and donated them to the Archives in 2006; Christine I. Oaklander, who purchased the account book, 1873-1875, and donated it to the Archives in honor of Judith Ellen Throm in 2007, and also donated additional letters and a photograph in 2008; and Mary K. and John F. McGuigan, Jr., who purchased correspondence (1120 letters), speeches, lectures, articles, checks, check stubs and miscellaneous items and donated them to the Archives in 2015. In 2007, the University of Maine Foundation via Amos Orcutt donated the 1934 journal and 60 photographs. John F. McGuigan, Jr. and Mary K. McGuigan have purchased and donated additional archival materials to the Archives, including the Mary K. McGuigan and John F. McGuigan, Jr. artists' letters collection, and 69 letters now among the Sylvester Rosa Koehler papers. In 2007, the University of Maine Foundation via Amos Orcutt donated the 1934 journal and 60 photographs that were part of the Volk Family estate, but not included in the June 19, 2006 auction.

Related Materials

Originals of loaned material, including correspondence of Leonard Volk and photographs of his artwork, were returned to the George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University, after microfilming. Loaned material is available on reel 4280, but is not described in the container listing of this finding aid.

Funding

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • Reel 4280: Originals in: George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University.

A Finding Aid to the Douglas Volk and Leonard Wells Volk Papers, circa 1858-1965, 2008, bulk circa 1870-1935, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.volkleon
Author
Finding aid prepared by Stephanie Ashley
Biographical/Historical note
Chicago sculptor Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895) created one of only two life masks of Abraham Lincoln. His son, painter and teacher Douglas Volk (1856-1935), was known for his figure and portrait paintings. Douglas Volk and his wife Marion Larrabee Volk established the Sabatos Handicraft Society, producing homespun woolen rugs and textiles from their summer home in Center Lovell, Maine.
Leonard Wells Volk was raised in New York State and Massachusetts, before moving to St. Louis to learn modeling and drawing. Around 1852 he married Emily Clarissa King Barlow, a cousin of Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas took an interest in Volk’s career and helped finance his trip to Rome and Florence between 1855 and 1857, where Volk studied art. On returning from Europe Volk settled in Chicago, opening a studio there and establishing himself as a leader in art circles and a founder of the Chicago Academy of Design. He served as president of the Academy (later the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) for eight years. Volk recorded his first meeting with Lincoln during the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the subsequent 1860 sittings with Lincoln for the life mask, hands, and bust, in his memoirs. The mask served as a model for many sculptors who made later portraits of Lincoln. Volk’s other important works include the Rock Island County Soldier’s Monument in Rochester, New York (1869), statues of Lincoln and Douglas for the Illinois Statehouse (1876), a bust of Douglas, and the Douglas Tomb monument (1881) in Chicago.
Douglas Volk was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1856. His artistic education began in his teens when he traveled to Europe with his family. In the early 1870s he lived in Rome and Venice, spending time with his friends George de Forest Brush and J. Alden Weir. He moved to Paris in 1873 where he studied at the École des Beaux Arts with Jean-Léon Gérôme, and exhibited his first picture,
In Brittany
, at the 1875 Paris Salon.
In 1879 Volk returned to the United States and accepted a teaching position at Cooper Union. He was elected to the Society of American Artists in 1880 and married Marion Larrabee in 1881. In 1883 Volk became a founder of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts and was appointed the first president of the subsequent Minneapolis School of Fine Arts in 1886, a position he held until 1893. During his time in Minneapolis, Volk purchased a summer studio and retreat in Osceola, Wisconsin, and he and Marion had four children: Leonard (1882-1891), Wendell (1884-1953), Marion (1888-1973) and Gerome (1890-1959). In 1893 Volk returned to New York and accepted a position at the Art Students League, where he taught from 1893-1898, and also resumed his post at Cooper Union. He became interested in innovative ways to teach art and art history to children, and in 1895 the National Academy of Design printed his essay "A Plea for Art in the Public Schools," in its annual exhibition catalog. He was elected an associate of the Academy in 1898, becoming a full academician in 1899.
In 1898, looking to provide the family with a summer retreat, Marion Volk purchased property with a friend in Center Lovell, Maine, an area already enjoyed by the couple's friends, George de Forest Brush and Percival Chubb. The property was divided in 1901 and Marion added to her half creating a lot of approximately twenty-five acres. The Volks renovated the house, which they named Hewnoaks, and eventually built four more cottages and a studio for Douglas Volk on the property. During this period Marion Volk was working with handwoven wool on traditional area looms using fruit and vegetable hand-dyes and designs based on motifs from Native American art. In 1902 the Volks held the founding meeting of the Sabatos Handicraft Society at Hewnoaks, and the property became the hub of a Center Lovell community effort to produce rugs, textiles, and other handicrafts using traditional methods. Daughter Marion worked with her mother, and son Wendell, a printmaker and woodcaver, operated the Hewn Beam Press, printing pamphlets and a newsletter entitled the
Fire Fly: A Periodical of Fearless Endeavour
. Swedish-born wood carver Karl von Rydingsvard offered classes on wood carving at Hewnoaks, assisted by Wendell Volk.
Douglas Volk worked to make the Hewnoaks handicraft movement a success, but focused primarily on his own painting. The Maine woods provided endless inspiration and the setting for many of his paintings and murals, which primarily depicted romanticized historical subjects in Colonial America and reflected his traditional academic training. One of his best known works,
The Boy with the Arrow
(1903), a portrait of his son Leonard "Leo" Volk who died at the age of eight, is now in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Volk taught at the National Academy of Design from 1910-1917. He served as recording secretary and then on the council for the organization from 1910-1919. His acclaimed intimate portraits of friends and acquaintances, including Felix Adler (1914) and William Macbeth (1917), were painted during this period. In 1919 Volk was one of a group of artists commissioned by the National Art Committee to paint major figures from World War I. He subsequently painted portraits of King Albert of Belgium, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and General John J. Pershing, and recorded his meetings and sittings with the three men in his journals.
For the last fifteen years of his life Volk, using his father's life mask, painted a series of portraits of Abraham Lincoln, one of which hangs in the Lincoln Bedroom at The White House.
At least fifteen years prior to her death in 1925, Marion Volk's involvement in handicrafts at Hewnoaks declined, while Douglas Volk continued to focus on his own work. Wendell Volk's career in civil engineering took precedence over his interest in weaving and woodcarving and both he and his brother Gerome moved West in 1909. Following Douglas Volk's death in Fryeburg, Maine in 1935, Wendell Volk and his wife Jessie, also an artist, ultimately took possession of Hewnoaks. Wendell died in 1953, but the property was eventually bequeathed by Jessie Volk to the University of Maine and now operates as an artist colony.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 2 series.
Series 1: Douglas Volk Papers, circa 1870-1965, 2008 (10.97 linear feet; Boxes 1-12, OV 14)
Series 2: Leonard Wells Volk Papers, circa 1858-circa 1930 (0.43 linear feet; Boxes 11-12)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of painter and teacher Douglas Volk (1856-1935) and his father, sculptor Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895), measure 11.4 linear feet and date from circa 1858-1965, 2008, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1870-1935. Douglas Volk's papers document his life and career through biographical material, family and professional correspondence, writings and notes, diaries and journals, financial records, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork and sketchbooks, and photographs of the artist, his family, friends, and artwork. The papers also provide documentation of the formation and operations of the Sabatos Handicraft Society established with Marion Volk from the Volk's summer home, Hewnoaks, in Center Lovell, Maine. Scattered documentation of the life and work of Leonard Wells Volk, is found in biographical material, land records, letters, memoirs, and photographs.
Douglas Volk's papers form the bulk of the collection and document all stages of his life from his first visits to Europe during his teenage years, until his death. Biographical material includes address books, biographical notes, genealogical records of Volk's family, and a warranty deed for land purchased by Marion Volk in Center Lovell, Maine, in 1904.
Family correspondence is primarily between Douglas and Marion throughout their courtship and marriage, but also includes letters from other family members including daughter Marion Volk Bridge and sons Wendell and Gerome Volk. General correspondence is with colleagues, art galleries, societies, institutions and museums, schools and colleges, government agencies, and others. Also found are letters from artists including George de Forest Brush, Elliott Daingerfield, Cass Gilbert, Philip Leslie Hale, Swedish woodcarver Karl von Rydingsvard, and J. Alden Weir; and friends Felix Adler and Percival Chubb.
Douglas Volk's writings and notes are on art, art instruction for children, and the significance and influence of his father's work, particularly Leonard Volk's Lincoln life mask, and include drafts of his monograph "Art Instruction in Public Schools."
Diaries and journals record details of Volk's early art education in Europe, including his friendships with Eugene Benson and George de Forest Brush and others, his time spent studying under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux Arts, his appointment by the National Art Committee to paint portraits of World War I era politicians and military figures, and his Lincoln portrait painted just prior to Volk's death.
Financial records document day-to-day routine expense, as well as sales of artwork and other art-related transactions.
Printed material and a scrapbook of clippings and letters include press coverage of Douglas Volk's career from the early 1900s to 1918. An additional scrapbook provides documentation of the Sabatos Handicraft Society, including a copy of one of only three known editions of the society's publication
The Fire Fly
. Artwork includes sketches, two small oil paintings, and fifteen sketchbooks of Douglas Volk.
Photographs include portraits taken at various stages of Volk's career, family photographs, photographs of the main house at Hewnoaks and additional buildings, photographs of several artists including William Merritt Chase and Karl von Rydinsgsvard, photographs of world leaders including David Lloyd George, King Albert of Belgium, and General John J. Pershing, and photographs of artwork.
The papers of Leonard Wells Volk include seven volumes of his hand-written memoirs which document his relationship with Stephen A. Douglas, his first meeting with Lincoln, and his involvement with the Chicago Academy of Design. Also found are three letters including one written to Douglas Volk in 1887, and a memorandum related to the value of Leonard Wells Volk's Lincoln and Douglas statues at the Illinois State House. Photographs include three of Leonard Wells Volk, photographs of other family members including his wife Emily, photos of houses and woodland scenes, and photos of artwork.
Provenance
Most of the material was donated in 2004-2005 by Jessie J. Volk, the daughter-in-law of Douglas Volk, who also bequeathed the Volk estate including additional Volk papers to the University of Maine. In 2006, University officials arranged for an auction of much of the property of the estate including the remaining family papers. The Volk Family estate auction was conducted by Cyr Auction Co., in Gray, Maine, on July 19, 2006. Several individuals purchased parts of the papers at that auction and subsequently donated them to the Archives. Those donors are: David Wright, who acquired the 1875 journal and Brush letters and donated them to the Archives in 2006; Christine I. Oaklander, who purchased the account book, 1873-1875, and donated it to the Archives in honor of Judith Ellen Throm in 2007, and also donated additional letters and a photograph in 2008; and Mary K. and John F. McGuigan, Jr., who purchased correspondence (1120 letters), speeches, lectures, articles, checks, check stubs and miscellaneous items and donated them to the Archives in 2015. In 2007, the University of Maine Foundation via Amos Orcutt donated the 1934 journal and 60 photographs. John F. McGuigan, Jr. and Mary K. McGuigan have purchased and donated additional archival materials to the Archives, including the Mary K. McGuigan and John F. McGuigan, Jr. artists' letters collection, and 69 letters now among the Sylvester Rosa Koehler papers. In 2007, the University of Maine Foundation via Amos Orcutt donated the 1934 journal and 60 photographs that were part of the Volk Family estate, but not included in the June 19, 2006 auction.
Separated Materials note
Volumes 1, 3, 6-7, 9, and 10 of Leonard Volk's memoirs form part of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana in the Library of Congress.
Originals of loaned material, including correspondence of Leonard Volk and photographs of his artwork, were returned to the George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University, after microfilming. Loaned material is available on reel 4280, but is not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
Location of Originals
  • Reel 4280: Originals in: George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University.
Processing Information note
Portions of the collection received some preliminary processing at some point after donation. All accessions were merged and the collection was fully processed and a finding aid prepared by Stephanie Ashley in 2016 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. The collection was digitized in 2016 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The collection was digitized in 2016 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

Douglas Volk and Leonard Wells Volk papers, circa 1858-1965, 2008, bulk circa 1870-1935. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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