DescriptionPROPERTY FROM THE EDWARD CHARLES VOLKERT FAMILY COLLECTION
EDWARD CHARLES VOLKERT (American, 1871-1935)
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 inches (50.8 x 61.0 cm)
Signed lower right: Edw C Volkert
Estate of the artist;
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Heritage is pleased to be offering an outstanding selection of works directly from the descendents of noted Impressionist painter Edward Charles Volkert (1871-1935). Born in Cincinnati to parents of German descent, Volkert would become known as "America's cattle painter," populating his picturesque landscapes with the stately animals for which he held great affection. A master of light and atmospheric effects, Volkert charmed early twentieth century audiences with his brilliant, sun-dappled and misty paintings. A reviewer in the Boston Sunday Post once wrote about Volkert, "He carries about with him a supply of bottled sunlight which he pours over cattle and landscapes with joyous prodigality."
Though Volkert initially began his career painting portraits, he eventually turned to the landscape for inspiration, primarily out of his love for nature and pastoral regions untouched by industrialization. The artist's devotion to animals was profound, and he regarded cattle and oxen to be the ideal subjects for his paintings, not only for their natural ability to remain motionless for extended periods, but also for their representation of a simpler time, when man lived his life in harmony with the natural world. This sentiment was not uncommon at the turn of the century, as Americans began to view modernity with apprehension, and longed for and the bucolic past. This yearning for a simpler way of life fueled the market for pastoral paintings, which often included cattle and oxen and proved very profitable as well as fashionable for turn-of-the-century parlors.
While living in New York, Volkert became a prominent member of the arts community, and was elected President of the Bronx Artist Guild. In 1922, he moved to Connecticut and joined the Old Lyme art colony, which had become the center of the burgeoning American Impressionist movement upon the arrival there in 1903 of the famed artist Childe Hassam. Volkert would state that one of his primary motives for relocating to the Old Lyme area was to paint the oxen utilized for their sure-footedness by local farmers, whose land was very rocky. Of his favorite 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." Volkert would paint his canvases en plein air; or out in the field, handling and posing the cattle and oxen himself, and had a strong personal connection and rapport with the animals.
Volkert became active in the Old Lyme colony, enjoying weekly Sunday afternoon gatherings at the Florence Griswold House, which served then as the hub for artists and now as a museum devoted to the work of the Old Lyme painters. At these meetings, Volkert expressed the need for American artists to break from the dominance of European influences and to find their own artistic voice.
Much like the father of French Impressionism, Claude Monet, whose compositions featured recurring subjects such as cathedrals, haystacks, and poplar trees in varying atmospheres and times of day, so Volkert repeatedly depicted cattle and oxen in different seasons, hours and settings. Though they figure consistently and prominently in his compositions, the animals themselves become less a focus than do the atmospheric effects; for example, the dazzling light of summer on an open meadow, the dappled shade of a tree providing respite for traveling cattle, or the heavy mist of an autumn morning settling over a quiet valley. Indeed, it was not only Volkert's ability to paint cattle with anatomical accuracy and endearing compassion, but also his masterful ability rendering light, atmosphere and shade which have earned him an important and lasting place in the history of American Impressionism.
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000.
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