Charles Volkmar



2015-06-26 11:22:25

Charles Volkmar (1841-1914) was a painter and ceramist.


Charles Volkmar was born in Baltimore, USA. He received his early art training at the Maryland Institute.

During the 1860s, accused of being a Confederate sympathiser in his homeland, Volkmar moved to Paris. Here he studied landscape painting with Henri Harpignies – a French landscape painter of the Barbizon School. Volkmar’s paintings were exhibited in Paris salons throughout the 1870s.

Charles spent 15 years in Paris.

While in France, Volkmar also studied pottery and tile making. He worked for sometime as an apprentice at the Haviland factory in Limoges. As well as a centre of porcelain manufacture, Limoges, in west-central France, is known for its medieval enamels on copper and its oak barrels – used in Cognac production.

As soon as Charles returned to the Unites States, he built a kiln. From this well-equipped base in Long Island, Charles produced tiles and vases. It was during this period that he became the first American potter to use an underglaze slip painting technique.

Charles Son, Leon, grew up watching his father creating beautiful American art pottery. As soon as he was able to, he joined his father in the workshop. He too became an accomplished potter under his father’s tutorship.

After several successful years, the family moved to Metuchen, New Jersey. “Charles Volkmar” officially became “Charles Volkmar and Son” around this time.

In 1911, the partnership dissolved. Charles health faltered and he was forced to retire. Leon moved to Bedford, New York, and established Durant Kilns. Like his father before him, he devoted a great deal of time to glaze experimentation.

Art pottery

The art pottery movement began in the 1870s in America and Britain, coinciding roughly with the beginning of the Arts and Crafts movement, which gained momentum in the 1880s. Art pottery was more elaborate than utilitarian pottery, and early pieces were usually hand-decorated, signed by the artist, and produced in limited numbers.

Many companies known for their art pottery, like Rookwood, Roseville, Frankoma, and Weller, were founded in the American Midwest in the 1880s and 1890s. Drawing on local deposits of clay and minerals, most of these companies started by making simple, decorative pottery pieces or utilitarian pieces such as flowerpots and other garden ware.

What ultimately set these companies apart were their ornamental designs. Rookwood and other Midwestern companies took inspiration from Asian designs and Art Nouveau styles, creating pieces that were both functional and beautiful. They worked in a variety of popular forms, from vases to bowls to wall sconces and decorative tiles.

Some art pottery makers, like Rookwood, eventually grew into large operations, producing pieces in quantity and marketing them nationally via department stores and catalogs. But many smaller studios also thrived in the heyday of hand thrown and decorated art pottery.

Other noteworthy makers of art pottery include Hull, McCoy, Charles Volkmar, Chelsea Keramic, Lonhuda, George Ohr, Newcomb College, Grueby Faience, Adelaide Alsop Robineau, Artus Van Briggle, and the Saturday Evening Girls.

In the U.S., interest in art pottery waned in the 1940s and many once-famous companies disappeared.

Collecting information

Both Volkmar’s artworks and ceramics are considered collectible. Volkmar signed his landscape paintings “Chas. Volkmar”. He worked in oil, on canvas and in oil on board.

His paintings and pottery generally feature rural scenes, animals, and farm labourers.

Condition is a key concern.

Price guide

A Charles Volkmar monumental charger sold for $650 at Craftsman Auctions in May 2004.

A Charles Volkmar oil on board depicting a farming scene sold for $1,400 at Craftsman Auctions in September 2003.

An unusual Charles Volkman watercolour depicting a landscape with geese sold for $600 at Craftsman Auctions in September 2003.

A Charles Volkman large baluster vase featuring a cow and a calf sold for $1,700 at Craftsman Auctions in May 2005.

A large four footed jardinière sold for $900 at Carftsman Auctions in May 2006.

Three matte-painted Charles Volkman tiles sold for $5,500 at Craftsman Auctions in September 2007.

A Charles Volman stoppered, two-handled bottle sold for $1,200 at Craftsman Auctions in September 2005.

A signed, floral art pottery vase by Charles Volkmar sold for $1,700 at Myers Fine Art Auctions in January 2006.

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