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Morning on the Cheat River, circa 1861-1864
Charles Volkmar (1841-1914)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
22 x 36 inches
Signature Details: Signed lower left
Status: Private Collection, Yemassee, SC

As Morning on the Cheat River reveals, Volkmar worked in the Hudson River landscape tradition before developing into a ceramic artist. When he began painting in the early 1860s, the prevailing taste in landscape still favored this native school. Eager to establish himself as a professional artist, Volkmar assimilated characteristics of the style. Morning on the Cheat River is probably one of his earliest paintings. Using pictorial formulas that had become commonplace—a broad panoramic vista encompassing varied and contrasting scenery, faithfully rendered details and a light-filled atmosphere—Volkmar has given expression to the emotions he experienced in the natural world. In lieu of a human presence, two large birds are prominent.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Volkmar received his initial art education at the Maryland Institute. In 1861 he was accused of being a Confederate sympathizer, and made a swift departure for Paris, where he remained for nearly fifteen years (Clark, p. 1). As a result, many of his American subjects were actually painted in Europe, along with Barbizon and other French scenes. While little is known about his travels or activities before his departure from America, Morning on the Cheat River appears to record an actual view. According to its inscription, the picture was painted in Paris, probably from sketches brought from America

With its boulder-strewn shoreline and glaciated gorges, the Cheat was one of the most dramatic whitewater rivers in Virginia (now West Virginia). Accessible by train as early as 1852, it was a popular tourist destination for tourists and artists. The Troy Run viaduct built over the Cheat River by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was considered such an engineering feat that Beyer pictured it in 1858 in his Album of Virginia. Described by the artist as “one of the most romantic scenes on the Road,” passengers were encouraged to stroll along the structure’s wooden deck to enjoy a “view of the Cheat River winding below on one side—on the other a beautiful farm, and in the distance, lofty mountains.” (Beyer, p. 27.) NRS


Clark, John B. The Volkmar Legacy to American Pottery, Greenwich, Connecticut: Bruce Museum, 1985.

Beyer, Edward. Album of Virginia. Richmond, Virginia: 1858.

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1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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