Charles Volkmar ceramics


Feb 26 - Aug 20, 2023
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Smith library
Salmagundi Library Committee
Exhibition Hours
Monday – Friday | 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Saturday – Sunday | 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Open to the public
Free to attend

A bowl that flares out a little at the top with plum glaze exterior and a turquoise glaze interior with faince finish.

The Salmagundi Club’s Smith Library presents for the first time the ceramic art of an early club member Charles Volkmar. Besides being a painter and etcher, an oft-overlooked aspect of Volkmar’s work is his pottery making where examples may be currently seen in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Volkmar was the creator of the ceramic blanks and for firing the mugs in the Salmagundi Library collection.

About Charles Volkmar (1841-1914)

Charles Volkmar is best known today as a ceramic artist, but in the mid-1860s, at the outset of his career, he was very much the model of an aspiring landscape painter. Most of his canvases were of considerable dimensions, and though they were probably studied in the United States, many of these American subjects were painted in Europe, along with Barbizon and other French scenes.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland to a family steeped in the arts (his grandfather was an engraver; his father, a Dresden-educated portrait painter, etcher and restorer), it was natural for Volkmar to pursue artistic training. Having received his initial art education at the Maryland Institute, he was an accomplished etcher by his late teens. In 1861, an intriguingly unrecorded incident resulted in his accusation as a Confederate sympathizer and Volkmar made a speedy departure for Europe (Clark, p. 1).

Settling in Paris, he studied under the bronze sculptor Antoine-Louis Bayre at the Jarden des Plantes and in the government schools. Volkmar remained in France for nearly fifteen years, making frequent trips to the United States, “partly for the purpose of voting for the second term of Lincoln, getting married, and other commendable enterprises” (Walton, p. LXXV).

During his first visit in 1864, he exhibited a landscape entitled Gorges Creek, Va. at the National Academy of Design in New York; on his next trip in 1867, he married his wife Nettie. Volkmar returned to Europe and took up studies with Henri Harpignies, the Barbizon landscapist. He made his first appearance at the Paris Salon in 1875 and thereafter became a regular exhibitor of paintings, etchings and pottery.

Volkmar was once again in the United States to visit the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where he exhibited one of his landscapes and saw, for the first time, a French pottery decorated with an underglaze “slip.” Fascinated by this technique, Volkmar relocated to Montigney-sur-Loring, near Fontainbleau, to observe the potters employing the method first-hand. There were at that time a number of other artists, all of them later celebrated, who painted for the potters before glazing: Harpignes, Cazin, Troyon, Diaz, Anker, Colturièr and, most notably, Eugene Carrière.

Volkmar returned to the United States and set up kilns at Greenpoint, Long Island in 1879; Tremont (the Bronx), New York in 1882; Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1888; and Metuchen, New Jersey in 1902. His son, Leon Volkmar, joined him in 1903 in a partnership that flourished until 1911 when ill health forced him to dissolve the business. Volkmar died three years later in 1914.

Volkmar exhibited landscapes and animal pictures at the National Academy of Design from 1864 until 1894; at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Annual, 1877, 1883; at the Boston Art Club, 1881, 1884, 1892-94; at the Brooklyn Art Association, 1883, 1885; and at the American Watercolor Society, 1898.


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