Volk, Leonard and Douglas. Collection, 1872-1953 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
This collection contains personal and professional papers of artists Leonard and Douglas Volk. The collection includes correspondence, estate records, publications, sketches, copyright records, and other materials.
Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895) was born in Wellstown (now Wells), New York. He became a sculptor after studying marble cutting under his father in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Leonard married Emily Clarissa King Barlow in 1852, and had children, including a son named Stephen A. Douglas Volk. In April of 1860, Volk produced one of two life masks made of Abraham Lincoln. About a month later, Volk created casts of Lincoln's hands two days after the Republican Party had nominated Lincoln for president. Other principal works of Volk include: the Stephen A. Douglas tomb in Chicago, Illinois; the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Rochester, New York; and statues of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.
Stephen Arnold Douglas Volk (1856-1935) was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and was named after his mother's cousin, Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas grew up in Chicago, Illinois, but moved to Europe at the age of fourteen, where he studied art in Rome and Paris. After moving back the United States, he became an instructor at the Cooper Union, the Art Students League of New York, and the National Academy of Design. Three of his works were exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Douglas is known for his portraits of Abraham Lincoln and his own family and friends.
The collection is arranged in three series: Douglas Volk papers, Leonard Volk papers, and Mixed Correspondence and Ephemera. The Douglas Volk papers make up the bulk of the collection.
The majority of the Douglas Volk series consists of business correspondence with art galleries, dealers, and patrons regarding his work. The correspondence documents how his paintings were commissioned, painted and repainted, exhibited, and sold. Also included are letters to and from family members, including his wife, Marion (Larrabee) Volk, and three children, Marion (Volk) Bridge, Wendell Volk, and Gerome (Jerry) Volk. Correspondence and notes regarding estate materials after Douglas's death in 1935 are also included in the collection. Other papers in this series include publications, copyright applications and certificates for his works, sketches, a letter to King Leopold III of Belgium, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Douglas's materials in this collection primarily document the latter part of his career, when he devoted increasing attention to his portraits of Abraham Lincoln.
The Leonard Volk series includes correspondence with Douglas Volk, Helen Pitts Douglass (wife of Frederick Douglass), and others. Other papers in this series include copyright records for his works, as well as a memorandum book consisting of financial records. Also included in the collection is a mallet used by Leonard while sculpting.
The Mixed Correspondence and Ephemera series contains papers from both Leonard and Douglas. Included is correspondence, notes regarding paintings, and other items.
The Library purchased the collection from the Cyr Auction Company in July of 2006. Jessie J. (McCoig) Volk (1904-2005), daughter-in-law of Douglas Volk, bequeathed a large portion of the Volk property to the University of Maine Foundation and a portion of the family papers to the Smithsonian Institution. The University then consigned the estate's contents to the Cyr Auction Company, which sold the Volk family papers, furniture, artwork, and other items in several hundred lots at the July 19, 2006 auction. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Syracuse University, and other institutions also hold collections of the Volk family materials. Clarendon Van Norman, Jr. also donated five letters in this collection to the Library.
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