Douglas Volk

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Douglas Volk
Douglas Volk.jpg
Volk in 1917
Stephen Arnold Douglas Volk

(1856-02-23)February 23, 1856
DiedFebruary 7, 1935(1935-02-07) (aged 78)
Alma materÉcole des Beaux-Arts
OccupationPainter, muralist, educator
(m. 1881; died 1925)
Parent(s)Emily Clarissa King Barlow Volk
Leonard Wells Volk
AwardsBeck Gold Medal

Stephen Arnold Douglas Volk (February 23, 1856 – February 7, 1935)[1] was an American portrait and figure painter, muralist, and educator. He taught at the Cooper Union, the Art Students League of New York, and was one of the founders of the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts. He and his wife Marion established a summer artist colony in western Maine.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts,[2] to Emily Clarissa King (Barlow) Volk and the sculptor Leonard Wells Volk. He was named for his mother's maternal cousin, Stephen A. Douglas, the Democratic Party presidential nominee in 1860, who lost to Republican presidential nominee Abraham Lincoln. Congressman Lincoln posed for a bust by Leonard Volk in early 1860, and the sculptor made plaster casts of his face and hands. Four-year-old Douglas entertained the future president.[3]

Volk spent his childhood in Chicago, but his family moved to Europe when he was fourteen. He began studying art in Rome, and attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1873 to 1879), where he was a pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme.[4] At age nineteen, he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1875.[5]


The Second Minnesota Regiment at Missionary Ridge, c. 1906, Governor’s Reception Room at the Minnesota State Capitol
Ye Maiden's Reverie (1898), Berkshire Museum.

He returned to the United States, and was hired as an instructor at the Cooper Union in New York City, where he taught from 1879 to 1884 and from 1906 to 1912.[4] He helped to found the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts in 1886, and served as its director until 1893. He taught at the Art Students League of New York (1893 to 1898), the National Academy of Design (1910 to 1917), and intermittently at the Society for Ethical Culture.[4]

He was also a working artist, noted for his figure and portrait paintings. He exhibited three works at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the group won a medal, his first major award. One of the three, a "story picture" titled The Puritan Maiden, featured a young woman huddled against a tree in a bleak winter landscape. The footprints in the snow of her (unseen) lover lead away into the distance – "The snows must melt, the trees bud and roses bloom, ere he will come again."[6] It had been painted twelve years earlier, but became enormously popular at the Exposition and later through engraved copies.

Family members posed as models for a number of his most famous paintings. Puritan Mother and Child (1897), featured his wife in historical costume embracing their youngest son, and was part of the group that won a gold medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. It is now in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. The Young Pioneer (1899), a full-length portrait of his son Gerome in rustic costume holding a canoe paddle, won first prize at the 1899 Colonial Exhibition in Boston. It was bought for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1906,[7] but later deaccessioned. The Boy with the Arrow (1903), which featured his son seated on a rock with Kezar Lake in the distance, won the 1903 Carnegie Prize from the Society of American Artists, a silver medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, and the 1907 gold medal at the Carolina Art Association. It is now in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Critic Charles H. Caffin found Volk's historicist work formulaic but sincere:

Generally, he paints a bit of the pine forest, rude and solemn, and places in it a girl or boy; with such differences of motive as are suggested by the titles "Song of the Pines," "Thoughts of Youth," "The Woodland Maid." The figures are types of healthful beauty, with earnest faces and large eyes peering into the beyond. The spirit of the nation's past and of its best hopes for the future seem to be figured in these types. The sober dignity of the color schemes, warm browns, rich woodland greens and glimpses of brilliant blue, enforce the serene impressiveness of these pictures. One realizes that they are the outcome of a sincere and purposeful mind.[8]

He was one of eight American artists commissioned by the National Art Committee to depict major figures from the Great War (World War I).[9] His three portraits – King Albert I of Belgium (1919), standing in uniform on a battlefield; British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1919–20), seated at his desk; General John J. Pershing (1920–21), standing in uniform with his horse's reins in his hand – were donated to the National Portrait Gallery. The first two were later transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. An abandoned version of Volk's Pershing portrait showed the general standing beside the grave of an unknown soldier.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Marion, Portrait of the Artist's Daughter (1914), University of Rochester.
The Boy with the Arrow (Portrait of the Artist's Son) (1903), Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In 1881 Volk married the artist Marion Larrabee (1859–1925). She became the first instructor at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts. Together, they had four children:

  • Leonard Volk (1882–1891), who died young.
  • Wendell Volk (1884–1953), a printmaker and woodcarver who married Jessie J. McCoig (d. 2004), also an artist, c. 1931.
  • Marion Volk (1888–1973), who married Ezra R. Bridge in 1913.[11]
  • Gérôme Volk (1890–1959), who married Alice I. Masterton in 1939.[12]

Volk retired to Maine following his wife's 1925 death. He died at Fryeburg, Maine on February 7, 1935.[4]

Hewnoaks and Sabatos[edit]

The Volks began spending their summers in Center Lovell, Maine in the 1890s, and in 1904 bought a farmhouse on 25 acres along the shore of Kezar Lake. They renovated the house and added to it, naming it "Hewnoaks," and eventually building four additional cottages and an artist's studio for Volk.[13] Numerous artists and craftspeople came to study with them over the years. Many of their friends in the Arts and Crafts Movement were houseguests, including artists J. Alden Weir, Frank Benson, Childe Hassam, and William Merritt Chase; architect John Calvin Stevens, interior designer John Scott Bradstreet, and Swedish-born woodcarver Karl A. von Rydingsvärd.[14] Von Rydingsärd carved frames for a number of Volk's paintings, and taught woodcarving to Wendell Volk.[15]

By the turn of the century, Marion Larrabee Volk had begun using traditional area looms to weave textiles and rugs. Rather than cotton, she became known for handwoven woolen work. Her designs were based on motifs from Native American art, and she made her own dyes out of natural materials – apple, yellow oak and maple tree bark; goldenrod, barberry, St. John's wort and madder root. In a communal effort with her children and local residents, she produced "Sabatos" rugs and textiles, named for a nearby mountain.[16] Wendell Volk created silkscreen prints for the wool designs, and printed a treatise on the Sabatos work on his hand presses. Sabatos textiles are visible in the background of Douglas Volk's 1914 portrait of his daughter Marion.

The Volk family held the large property for 100 years. Jessie McCoig Volk, Wendell's widow, was the last to live there. Following her death in 2004, the property was bequeathed to the University of Maine, and a portion of the family records went to the Smithsonian Institution. University officials arranged for an auction of much of the property's contents and family papers, including art and craftwork by the Volks, and art they had collected. In October 2006, the contents grossed more than $700,000 at auction, drawing especially high prices for two paintings by the illustrator Howard Pyle and photographs of Native Americans by the Norwegian Frederick Monsen (1865–1929).[13] One item sold at the 2006 auction was Marion Larrabee Volk's first Sabatos rug.[17] It is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[18]


Life-mask of Abraham Lincoln (1860), cast by Leonard Volk.
1954 U.S. postage stamp, based on a portrait by Douglas Volk.

His students included artists Russell Cowles, Benjamin Orso Eggleston, Susan Ricker Knox, Ada Murphy, Ella Bennett Sherman, Adele Rogers Shrenk, and Helen Maria Turner.

He painted at least nine posthumous portraits of Lincoln, basing them on the plaster life-mask that his father had made in 1860.[4] One of them hangs in the Lincoln Bedroom at The White House. Another appeared on a U.S. postage stamp issued in the 1950s, and is now at the National Gallery of Art.

His intimate portraits of friends and acquaintances were among his most effective works.[4] These included educator Felix Adler (1914, Metropolitan Museum of Art), art dealer William Macbeth (1917, Brooklyn Museum), and New York governor Alfred E. Smith (1921, New York State Capitol). He was an advocate for teaching drawing and art to children, and published a monograph, Art Instruction in the Public Schools (1894).[19]

In addition to the museums listed below, Volk's work can be found in the collections of the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, the Montclair Art Museum, the Muskegon Museum of Art, the Portland Museum of Art, and elsewhere.[5] The Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia owns several of his paintings,[20] and its Tudor Revival building features extensive carving by his friend von Rydingsvärd.[21]

"Hewnoaks," Volk's property in Maine, has been preserved and operates as a summer artist colony.[22]


Dr. Felix Adler (1914), Metropolitan Museum of Art

Volk was elected to the Society of American Artists in 1880. He was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design in 1898, and became a full academician in 1899. The two organizations merged in 1906, and he served on the Academy's council from 1916 to 1919, and as its recording secretary from 1920 to 1926.[23] He was a member of the Architectural League of New York, the National Society of Portrait Painters, and the Society of Mural Painters.[4]

  • 1875 – Exhibited at Paris Salon – In Brittany.
  • 1876 – Exhibited at Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia – In Brittany, Vanity.
  • 1878 – Exhibited at Paris Salon – Portrait of Miss T.
  • 1889 – Exhibited at Exposition Universelle, Paris – The Puritan Captives, After the Reception.
  • 1893 – Medal, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago – Group: Mending the Canoe,[24] The Puritan Maiden, Portrait of Mrs. Lowry.
  • 1899 – Shaw Prize, Society of American Artists, New York City – The Woodland Maid.
  • 1899 – 1st prize, Colonial Exhibition, Boston – A Colonial Youth (The Young Pioneer).
  • 1901 – Silver medal, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo – Group: The Woodland Maid, Song of the Pines, The Maiden's Reverie, Thoughts of Youth.[25]
  • 1903 – Carnegie Prize, Society of American Artists, New York City – The Boy with the Arrow.
  • 1904 – Silver medal, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis – The Leetle Canadienne (The Boy with the Arrow).
  • 1907 – Gold medal, Carolina Art Association, Charleston – The Boy with the Arrow.
  • 1910 – Proctor Portrait Prize, National Academy of Design, New York City – Marion of Hewnoaks.
  • 1910 – Saltus Gold Medal, National Academy of Design, New York City – The Little Sister (Little Marion).
  • 1915 – Isaac N. Maynard Prize, National Academy of Design, New York City – Dr. Felix Adler.
  • 1915 – Gold medal, Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco – Group: Marion of Hewnoaks, Maid of the Manor, Mother and Child.
  • 1915 – Gold medal, National Arts Club, New York City – Among the Lilies.
  • 1916 – Beck Gold Medal, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia – Dr. Felix Adler.
  • 1921 – Cross of the Order of Leopold II. Presented by King Albert I of Belgium.

Selected works[edit]


Great War portraits[edit]



  1. ^ "Stephen A. Douglas Volk and Leonard Wells Volk", Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, accessed 4 April 2011
  2. ^ a b Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Volk, Douglas" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  3. ^ "The Boy who painted Lincoln," Schenectady Gazette, March 3, 1913.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Burke, Doreen Bolger (1980). American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Works. New York City: Press of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 287. ISBN 9780870992445.
  5. ^ a b Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Volk, Douglas" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  6. ^ A Puritan Maid, National Academy Notes, vol. 1, p. 21.
  7. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art, Report of the Trustees, (New York: Smith, Elder & Company, 1907), p. 54.[1]
  8. ^ "Pictures by Douglas Volk," The Artist, vol. 30, no. 1 (January 1901), p. xx.[2]
  9. ^ The National Art Committee, Exhibition of War Portraits (1921)
  10. ^ General Pershing (abandoned version), From Live Auctioneers. The subject is sometimes misidentified as General Patton.
  11. ^ Ezra R. Bridge, from FamilySearch.
  12. ^ Marriage record of Gerome D. Volk and Alice I. Masterson, from Maine Genealogy.
  13. ^ a b Mark Sisco, "Treasures from Hewnoaks" Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Maine Antiques Digest, October 2006, accessed 4 April 2011
  14. ^ "Rydingsvard Divorce Case", New York Times, 30 September 1897
  15. ^ "Karl von Rydingsgard", Art & Decoration, Vol. 5, Artspur Publications, 1914, p. 199.
  16. ^ "Art Notes", New York Times, 7 March 1902, accessed 4 April 2011
  17. ^ Robert Edwards, "Sabatos rugs and printed textiles," from American Decorative Art.
  18. ^ Sabatos Rug, from Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  19. ^ Douglas Volk, "Art Instruction in the Public Schools" (part 2), The Art Interchange vol. 35, no. 1 (July 1895), pp. 4-5.
  20. ^ Douglas Volk in the Hermitage Museum, from SIRIS.
  21. ^ Hermitage Museum, box window carved by von Rydingsvärd. Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Hewnoaks Artist Colony.
  23. ^ Stephen Arnold Douglas Volk Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine, from National Academy of Design.
  24. ^ "Mending the Canoe". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
  25. ^ Thoughts of Youth.
  26. ^ Portrait of Miss H.
  27. ^ A Puritan Maid, from LiveAuctioneers.
  28. ^ Accused of Witchcraft' from SIRIS.
  29. ^ After the Reception, from Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
  30. ^ Portrait of John Scott Bradstreet, from Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
  31. ^ Little Marion Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine, from National Academy Museum.
  32. ^ Little Marion, from SIRIS.
  33. ^ Puritan Mother and Child.
  34. ^ Puritan Mother and Child, from SIRIS.
  35. ^ Young Pioneer, from School Arts Magazine, vol. 13 (May 1914), pp. 668-71.
  36. ^ Academy Notes. Buffalo, NY. vol. 3, no. 1 (June 1907), p. 6
  37. ^ A Woodland Maid.
  38. ^ The Woodland Maid, from SIRIS.
  39. ^ Boy with the Arrow, from SIRIS.
  40. ^ Belle of the Colonies.
  41. ^ Colonial Belle, from SIRIS.
  42. ^ Ave Maria
  43. ^ Abraham Lincoln, from National Gallery of Art.
  44. ^ The Artist's Daughter, from SIRIS.
  45. ^ Felix Adler, from Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  46. ^ John Cotton Dana, from SIRIS.
  47. ^ Self-Portrait
  48. ^ Self-Portrait, from SIRIS.
  49. ^ Frank L. Babbott, from SIRIS.
  50. ^ Maj. Gen. John G. Foster, from SIRIS.
  51. ^ Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, from SIRIS.
  52. ^ King Albert of Belgium
  53. ^ Albert, King of the Belgians, from SIRIS.
  54. ^ David Lloyd George, from SIRIS.
  55. ^ Gen. John J. Pershing, from SIRIS.
  56. ^ Father Hennepin Discovering the Falls of St. Anthony, from SIRIS.
  57. ^ Second Minnesota Regiment at the Battle of Mission Ridge.
  58. ^ Second Minnesota Regiment at the Battle of Mission Ridge, from SIRIS
  59. ^ The Fur-Trading Period of Des Moines, Yearbook of the Architectural League of New York (1914).

External links[edit]