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Douglas Volk

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Subject: Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Leonard Volk, Lloyd Goodrich
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Douglas Volk

Douglas Volk, named Stephen Arnold Douglas Volk (23 February 1856 - 1935)[1] was an American portrait and landscape painter. He helped establish the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts. After 1904 he and his wife Marion created an artists' retreat at their family home, Hewnoaks, in Maine. She became active in the production of woolen textiles and rugs by traditional processes, and formed a group called Sabatos.

Early life and education

Douglas was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts,[2] to Emily Clarissa King (Barlow) Volk and the sculptor Leonard Wells Volk. He was named after his mother's maternal cousin Stephen A. Douglas.

After studying in the United States, Douglas Volk went to Paris, where he was a pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme. He exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1875.[3] He also studied in Rome.

Marriage and family

In 1881 Volk married the artist Marion Larrabee, the first instructor at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts, now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. It originally served mostly women students.

Their children were the following:

  • Wendell (1888–1953), printmaker and woodcarver, who married Jessie J. McCoig, also an artist (b. ?-2004)
  • Marion, who married Mr. Bridges.
  • Lawrence


Volk was a working artist and teacher. He taught at Cooper Union (1879–94; 1908–12),[3] the New York Art Students League, and the National Academy of Design in New York City. He also taught at the Society for Ethical Culture established by Felix Adler.

He was a founder of the Minneapolis School of Fine Art, now known as the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He participated in the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and won his first major award there. Volk became noted for his figure and portrait paintings. He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1899.[2]

Sabatos and Hewnoaks

Volk and his family started going to Maine for the summers. By the turn of the century, Marion Volk had started to work on traditional area looms to weave textiles and rugs. Rather than using cotton, she became known for her handwoven woolen work, created with her daughter Marion Volk Bridges. As part of a communal effort with residents of Lovell Centre, they made what collectively were known as Sabatos Rugs and Textiles. They hand-dyed the wools with fruit and vegetable dyes, such as the bark of apple trees, yellow oak and maple; goldenrod, barberry, St. John's wort and madder root.[4] Their designs were based on motifs from Native American art. Wendell Volk made a handprinted treatise on the Sabatos work from his hand presses. He also created silkscreen prints for the wool designs. His wife Jessie McCoig Volk also participated in making the handwoven works.

In 1904 the Volks bought a farmhouse and property on Kezar Lake at Lovell Centre in western Maine. They renovated the house and added to it, calling it Hewnoaks. They eventually built four more cottages and an artist's studio for Douglas,[5] with space for their artist friends and craftspeople. Numerous people came to study with them over the years, and they had a wide network of friends among artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Among them were J. Alden Weir, Frank Benson, John Calvin Stevens, Childe Hassam, Steven Douglas, William Merritt Chase, John Scott Bradstreet, Felix Adler, and the Swedish woodcarver Karl A. von Rydingsvärd and his American wife, the former Annie Mary Brown.[6] (In 1906 Von Rydingsärd was awarded the Life Membership prize of the National Society of Craftsmen.[7])

The Volk family held the large property for 100 years. Jessie McCoig Volk, Wendell's widow, was the last to live there. After her death in 2004, the property was bequeathed to the University of Maine and a portion of the family records to the Smithsonian Institution. University officials arranged for an auction of much of the property's contents and family papers, including art and craft work by the Volks and art which 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).[5]


  • “In Brittany” (1876)
  • “Domestic Life in Normandy” (1878)
  • “Puritan Girl” (1881)
  • “A Girl of the Colonies” (1903)
  • “The Arrow” (winner of the Carnegie prize at the Society of American Artists in 1903)[2]

Examples of Volk's work are found in most American collections, for example in the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; in the Corcoran Gallery at Washington, D.C.; in the Pittsfield Museum; in the Minnesota Capitol; in the National Museum at Washington; in the Montclair, New Jersey, Art Museum; in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; in the National Arts Club; in the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery; in the Muskegon, Michigan, Art Museum; in the Omaha Art Museum and in the Portland, Maine, Art Society; and other places.[3]

Having a lifelong interest in Abraham Lincoln (who, as President-elect, had sat for Volk's sculptor father), Volk also painted several portraits of the President, one of which now adorns the Lincoln bedroom at the White House; another, now at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., was used as model for the three-cent Lincoln postage stamp issued in the 1950s.


External links

  • "Douglas Volk",
  • "Douglas Volk", The Famous Artists

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