JEA Volschenk was born near Riversdale in the Southern Cape, in 1853. He attended school in Riverdale and later joined Reitz & Versfeld, a firm of attorneys, as bookkeeper, while painting in his spare time.
In 1899 he married Helen Smallberger and had nine daughters, one of whom, Vera Volschenk, went on to become an artist.
In 1904 at the age of 51, Volschenk gave up his professional occupation as accountant and turned his full attention to painting. He was an entirely self taught landscape painter, working predominantly in oil, though occasionally in watercolour, and also produced a number of wood engravings.
Volschenk’s subject matter was his home landscape - the Langeberg mountain range with its rocky peaks, the yellow-green shrubs and veld with the pink Cape heath and bright aloes. He painted the farms and scenes of the nearby river, sometimes venturing further to Stilbaai, Knysna, George and Worcester.
Volschenk was not concerned with structural designs or theories – his passion was painting a realistic depiction of the scene before his eyes. In his early works he used deep colours for the vegetation and varnishes to conceal his brushstrokes. As his confidence and skill grew he began to use a lighter palette and his paintings became more romanticised, with mist on the mountains tinted by sunsets rich in warm oranges and gold. The ‘coloured-in’ outlines seen in his earlier works were replaced by a more painterly technique and he began to ‘draw with the brush’.
Although Volschenk rarely exhibited, his works found popular support.
Jan Volschenk suffered a stroke and died in Riversdale in 1936.
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