Leonard Wells Volk
Born in Wellstown, New York; died in Chicago. At the age of sixteen Volk began to learn stonecutting in his father's shop. For a time he was an itinerant workman in various parts of Massachusetts and New York. In 1848 he settled in St. Louis, where he began to study art with a view to becoming a sculptor, while supporting himself as a stonecutter. One of Volk's first works in marble was a copy of Joel Hart's bust of Henry Clay. In 1855, with money lent him by his relatives Stephen A. Douglas, Volk went to Rome, where he remained for almost two years. On his return to the United States in 1857, he settled permanently in Chicago and became a leader in art activities. He was one of the founders of the Chicago Academy of Design in 1867 and its president for a number of years. His fame as a sculptor rests principally, if not solely, on his portrait bust of Abraham Lincoln, modeled after a life mask cast in Chicago in 1860. Volk's design for the bust of Lincoln was patented in 1860, and after Lincoln's death Volk sold plaster copies of it. The original life mask in plaster is now in the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution. This mask and the bust by Volk have been used by all later sculptors in making portraits of Lincoln. Volk's son was the painter Douglas Volk (1856-1935).
(Entry taken from biographical article in the WMAA artist file.)