Leonard Wells Volk (November 7, 1828 - August19, 1895) was an American sculptor. Most famous for making a life mask of American President Abraham Lincoln.
He was born at Wellstown (now Wells
), Hamilton County
, New York
. He first followed the trade of a marble
cutter with his father at Pittsfield, Massachusetts
. In 1848 he opened a studio at St Louis, Missouri
, and in 1855 was sent by his wife's cousin, politician Stephen A. Douglas
, to Rome
to study. Returning to America in 1857, he settled in Chicago
, where he helped to establish an Academy of Design
and was for eight years its head.
Among his principal works:
In 1860 he made a life mask of Lincoln, of whom only one other was ever made (by Clark Mills in 1865).
His son, Douglas Volk (1856-1935), figure and portrait painter, who studied under J. L. Gerome in Paris, became a member of the Society of American Artists in 1880 and of the National Academy of Design in 1899.
Lincoln and Volk
In the early part of spring in 1860, during Abraham Lincoln's visit to Chicago, Volk asked him to sit for a bust. When Lincoln agreed, the artist decided to start by doing a life mask. Lincoln found the process of letting wet plaster dry on his face, followed by a skin-stretching removal process, "anything but agreeable." But he endured it with good humor, and when he saw the final bust, he was quite pleased, declaring it "the animal himself." Volk later used the life mask and bust of 1860 as the basis for other editions, including a full-length statue of Lincoln.