EDWARD C. VOLKERT MURAL
at Western Hills HighSchool
A monumental mural created 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 and up to 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, this mural may be Volkert's last and perhaps the most significant piece he ever created.
Often artists make a study sketch, especially before they make a major painting. With respect to the noted mural, such a study was made by Volkert and acquired by the founding member of the Foundation, which is shown below. Volkert named and signed the three major scenes in this sketch, but they are mostly different in the mural.
A Mural Study for Western Hills High School in Cincinnati, OH c. 1930 by Edward Volkert. The scenes on this watercolor, which are identified by the artist, are left to right: "Connecticut Road," "Misty Morning" and "Wooding It." In comparison to the final mural, there is no longer an image with sheep. Instead of different seasons shown on the watercolor, the mural only has summer scenes. In addition, scenes of cows on the end panels of the final mural are similar to the scene in the center of the study called "Misty Morning." And most importantly, instead of the oxen being on a side panel, they are the focal point in the center panels of the mural, not cows. Further, more vibrant colors are used in the mural than in the watercolor, especially in the center with the use of bright blue water and its reflections. The changes Volkert made from his study to the final mural were substantial and created a very special piece of artwork enjoyed by tens of thousands of students who have attended the high school where it still remains.
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, and the image shown, was displayed by William C. and Lucia Schott in the living room of their main home at Pine Meer behind a grand piano. The couple also appreciated the artwork from other Cincinnati artists, and coveted 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.
The background image is a photograph of Western Hills High School taken around 1950.
The lunchroom and mural is located on the upper floor of the tallest and center structure.