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 Adalbert John Volck  (1828 - 1912)

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Lived/Active: Maryland / Germany      Known for: caricature, still life, landscape painting

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Ad Code: 3
Adalbert John Volck
from Auction House Records.
"You Go First"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Dr. Adalbert Johann Volck published many illustrations in the Baltimore Sun during the Civil War and was the nemesis of Thomas Nash.  Volck countered every Union political illustration printed in New York from Nash with an equally poignant one of the rape and pillage of the South.  Volck was powerfully Southern in his political views, his hatred of Lincoln, and his loathing of Lincoln's infamous generals and the wanton destruction of the South.  He was arrested and put in jail at Fort McHenry, Maryland (not confirmed). 

Much of his work in support of the Southern cause was deliberately destroyed, but some of his Confederate Sketches survive in the Pratt and Peabody Libraries' special collections  in Baltimore...and they survived only because his copper plates were smuggled out of the country and prints made in England.  His prolific art work for the Confederate cause during the Union occupation of Baltimore, caused him to create much of his fine art subrosa, under an assumed name, an anagram of his own, which protected him.  He also smuggled medical supplies to the Confederate army.  He was a personal friend of General Robert E. Lee and created some of the best known sketches of that important Civil War general. 

It was well after the Civil War, and in his retirement (1875) that he became known as a fine artist and producer of beautiful landscapes and still lives, also magnificent bronze, ivory, wood sculptures, and silver and porcelain works.  A truly remarkable and skilled artist.  He created his own copper plates and engravings and privately published many of his drawings.  His depiction of Abraham Lincoln traveling through Baltimore to Washington DC was published in the Baltimore Sun and in history books in Eastern schools as late as 1950.

 He is not only known for his fine art but he is also credited for having been the first to make false teeth from porcelain.  He is memorialized in a book entitled The Work of Adalbert Johann Volck  (1828-1912) privately printed by George McCullough Anderson, Press of Schneidereith & Sons, Inc. Baltimore, MD; 1970.  Volck was an exquisite etcher, illustrator, sculptor, painter, worker in metal, wood, ivory, and porcelain.

Information provided by Diane Crowne

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
An artist and dentist, Adalbert Volck was born in Augsburg, Germany and raised in Bavaria. He studied science at the Polytechnic Institute in Nuremburg, while learning drawing and printmaking at a nearby artist’s colony. He continued his education in chemistry at the University of Munich and sought additional training in artist’s studios in that city.

A political reformer involved in the German democratic revolutions of 1848, Volck fled the country for America. He arrived in St. Louis in 1849, then joined the Gold Rush to California. He settled in Baltimore in 1851, and became a chemistry instructor and student at the newly founded College of Dentistry (now the Dental School, University of Maryland). He earned a degree in dental science in 1852, opened his own practice, and was a pioneer in his profession, developing porcelain compounds for fillings and artificial teeth.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Volck became politically active once again, this time in support of the Confederacy. He was a powerful sympathizer and agent, running blockades and providing medicine and information. He exercised his artistic skills as a political cartoonist, publishing scathing anti-Union prints under the pseudonym “V. Blada” (a reversal of the first five letters of his first name, and the first initial of his last name). His Sketches from the Civil War in North America (begun in 1861), consisted of thirty etchings issued in two parts around 1863 to 1864.

In the decades following the war, Volck returned his dental practice, and extended his artistic pursuits to oil painting, sculpture, and metal work in silver, bronze and copper. A prominent member of the cultural community in Baltimore, he helped establish the Wednesday Club, a well-known group of artists, actors, and musicians; the Maryland Academy of Fine Arts, where he taught, and the Charcoal Club.

As a painter, he produced landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, such You Go First, which presents a simple, inviting meal of oysters with a half lemon, accompanied by a glass and decanter of brandy. Employing a soft, painterly realism, Volck creates a variety of colors, textures, and material contrasts between the plate of food, crystalline, reflective glass, and the small vase of roses—all arrayed on a richly covered table. RS

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