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 Edward Charles Volkert  (1871 - 1935)

About: Edward Charles Volkert
 

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Lived/Active: Connecticut/New York/Ohio      Known for: landscape with cattle painting, bucolic scenes, portraiture

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Ad Code: 3
Edward Charles Volkert
from Auction House Records.
Cattle Grazing at Midday
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Of German heritage, Edward Volkert, an impressionist painter, became known as "America's cattle painter."  In fact, he strove so hard to get their accurate depictions that he went to slaughter houses to study their anatomies.

He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to parents who came from Alsace Lorraine.  During his early career, he was primarily a portraitist, and felt freest when he was painting with watercolors.  However, he ceased portrait painting as a result of feelings he had from a divorce from a marriage where he had two children.  He turned to landscape painting, usually expressions of deep love for nature and of devotion to rural areas untouched by industrialization.  Often his scenes were bucolic with grazing cattle, hence the special recognition for that subject matter.

Volkert lived for part of his career in New York where he was President of the Bronx Artist Guild.  In 1922, he moved to Connecticut and settled in Hamburg, outside of Old Lyme.  He, who had became increasingly withdrawn from the time of his divorce, became an active part of the Old Lyme artist colony, and enjoyed the sociability of the regular Sunday afternoon artist gatherings at the Griswold House. At these meetings, he asserted the need for American artists to break away from the bondage of European influences and find their own styles.

He later said that one of his primary motives for moving to the Old Lyme area was to paint the oxen used for their sure-footedness by local farmers whose land was very rocky.  Of this subject matter, he said: "Oxen are twice as good as cows at posing" because they are always ready to stand still and are not as inquisitive as cows who "come over and investigate."

Light was of special interest to him throughout his career, and it said of him that he "painted light and reflection like a master."  A reviewer in the Boston Sunday Post wrote: "He carries about with him a supply of bottled sunlight which he pours over cattle and landscapes with joyous prodigality."

Volkert adhered to the impressionist method of using small dots of paint, which built a thickly painted canvas to suggest form through light and color.  However, he abjured pure impressionism because he was so interested in actual form and color.

However, after the premature death of his daughter in 1933, he lost his drive to paint and never again lifted a paint brush.  He was a committed Christian Scientist, and died in 1935 from refusing treatment for uremic poisoning.

After his death, his "Cattle Logs", as he called them, were found in his studio.  They were books of watercolor paper, each measuring 10 inches with miniature reproductions of most of the paintings he ever completed.  His purpose was to be able to replace any painting ever lost or destroyed, so these logs were exact-to-scale and color miniature replicas.

Source:
Mary Leonhard Ran, An Exhibition of Paintings by Edward Charles Volkert

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Cincinnati to German parents, Volkert started his career painting portraits, then moved on to bucolic landscapes.  While living in New York, Volkert was president of the Bronx Art Guild.  He later moved near Old Lyme, CT, in part because of his interest in painting the ever-present oxen there, which Volkert described as "twice as good as cows at posing… oxen are always ready to stand still, but cows are more inquisitive and when a newcomer appears they forsake their quiet rumination and come over to investigate.” (logris.org)

Artists such as Volkert were attracted to Old Lyme for its proximity to the rural subjects of farms, fields, and farm animals.  Sheep, oxen and horses were all painted, but the cow was the most popular.  They represented a simpler time when man was more tied to the land, a topic popular at the time when modernity was sometimes viewed as a threat.  This “cow craze” made the market for cow paintings very profitable and their images fashionable for turn-of-the-century parlors.

Volkert married, but experienced a difficult divorce.  The New York Times (July 29, 1909) recorded the decision of a judge to award Volkert, at that time living in New York City, the custody of his then ten-year-old daughter, Ruth, vs her mother and present husband, Professor Tor Van Pyk.

Volkert’s  style is noted for its impressionist use of light, often applied in small dots of paint, while he maintained an interest in the true forms and colors of his subject matter.
 

Sources:
The website logris.org; 
The New York Times, July 29, 1909.  


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Edward Volkert is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Old Lyme Colony Painters
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915



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