at Western Hills HighSchool

A monumental mural by a highly regarded artist from Cincinnati, Edward Charles Volkert, was installed in the lunchroom of Western Hills High School during Christmas break in 1931-2. This was shortly after the school opened in the fall of 1928. It measures 70 feet wide by 10 feet tall. The three center panels are named "Farmers Ferry," depicting a scene along Eight-Mile River that was near the artist's studio in Old Lyme, CT.  However, Volkert was born in Cincinnati in 1871 and studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy under Frank Duveneck.  He worked between Cincinnati and New York for a time, and then moved permanently to Connecticut in 1922. The two end panels are scenes of cattle, possibly in the Ohio countryside, which was a common subject in Volkert's paintings.  After a painful divorce, Volkert was said to have liked cows better than people - and he even liked oxen better than cows. Volkert stopped painting in 1933 when his daughter passed away prematurely. He died in 1935. Therefore, these murals may be Volkert's last major work and perhaps the largest he ever created.

Often artists make a study sketch, especially before they make a major painting. With respect to the noted mural, such a sketch was made by Volkert and acquired by the founding member of the Foundation, which is shown below. Besides the fact that most of Volkert's renderings in this sketch were different than in his final mural, it's noteworthy that the artist named and signed the three major scenes in this sketch.  

From Left to Right, the names on Volkert's sketch for the mural are: "Connecticut Road," "Misty Morning" and "Wooding It." Each scene also has his signature. In comparison to the final mural, there is no longer an image with sheep. An ox cart image centered on three panels of the mural, depicted on a stream in summer, is not an end panel showing an ox cart in fall, as shown on the sketch. And, the scene of cows in the sketch called "Misty Morning" in the center of the sketch, is repeated as end panels in the final mural. 

Six other murals, under the theme of "Transportation," measuring 7 feet wide by 10 feet tall each, were painted by Frances Wiley Faig and placed in the aforesaid school's entrance foyer. They were installed about a year before the Volkert murals. Faig was also a student of Frank Duveneck. Her murals illustrate the evolution of transportation in southwest Ohio from Cincinnati's founding in 1790, with early barges and wagons, through 1930, with air travel. Some photos of the Faig murals can be viewed by scrolling down the page at http://www.westernhillsalumni.com/our-school/remodeling-7/

Both sets of the aforesaid murals were commissioned around 1930 through efforts of the school's first principal, Benjamin H. Siehl, who sought donations for this artwork. William C. Schott, his oldest son William R. Schott and three other donors provided funds for the aforesaid murals  along with the Class of 1930. A painting by Volkert similar to Misty Morning, which was owned by William C. and Lucia Schott. It was located in the living room of their main home at Pine Meer. The couple also appreciated the artwork from other Cincinnati artists, and had paintings from Joseph Sharp, Henry Farny, Frank Duveneck and John Retig. 

Additional murals at Western Hills High School were placed at the far end of the lunchroom in 1945, through the efforts of Siehl.  They were painted by another local artist, Herman Wessel, and depicted different vocations along with hillside views of Cincinnati. 

Sources for the above information: AskArt/Faig, AskARt/Volkert and WesternHillsAlumni.com

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