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Portrait of library namesake now on view in Dana Library

Dr. Mark Winston, left, Assistant Chancellor of the Rutgers-Newark campus and director of the John Cotton Dana Library and Dr. William Peniston, right, Librarian of the Newark Museum, with the portrait.

The John Cotton Dana Library, on the Rutgers-Newark campus, is pleased to announce the installation of a portrait of John Cotton Dana in the Dana Room on the 4th floor. The oil painting, by the distinguished artist, Douglas Volk, is on long-term loan from the Newark Museum. The 1923 portrait was given to the Museum by C. W. Feigenspan, a prominent Newark citizen and president of both the Feigenspan Brewing Company and the Federal Trust Company of Newark.

John Cotton Dana served as Newark Public Library director from 1902 until 1929. His accomplishments in providing innovative services and programs to equalize and expand access to information brought him national acclaim. Newark Public Library offered books to children in the library's Children's Room, in their schools through circulating "trunk" collections, and in their neighborhoods with bookmobiles. The library also offered specialized sources for members of the business community at a branch in the city's commercial district. Newark's teachers had access to a collection of practice and research materials, including a remarkable picture file. The library made reading materials in languages other than English available to Newark's newest residents. In 1909 Dana acquired a series of Japanese prints that were displayed on the library's fourth floor, an area set aside for the new Newark Museum. Dana began to add pieces of American art, handicrafts and utilitarian objects.

In addition to his work at the Public Library and the Museum, Dana was very active in city life, serving on educational and cultural committees and boards of trustees. He was a board member of the New Jersey Law School, one of Rutgers-Newark's predecessors. When the School's Pre-Legal Department became a four-year program, the new school was named Dana College. Although Dana College was quickly followed by the Newark College of Arts and Sciences, the library continues to carry his name. In honor of his contributions, John Cotton Dana was known as Newark's First Citizen.

The painter, Douglas Volk (1856-1935), was a contemporary of Dana (1856-1929). During his lifetime, he enjoyed a national reputation for his portraits, as well as his historical studies of the colonial period in New England. Volk studied with Jean Léon Gérôme at L'École des Beaux Arts (Paris) and on his return to the United States he began his lengthy career as an art educator in New York City, teaching first at Cooper Union and later at the Art Students League, the New York Society of Ethical Culture, and the National Academy of Design. Volk's paintings have been collected by the National Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery (Washington, D. C.), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), and the Carnegie Museum (Pittsburgh). His murals decorate the walls of the Court House in Des Moines, IA, and the Capitol building in St. Paul, MN. Volk received his first medal for paintings displayed at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Many awards followed, including the Proctor Portrait Prize and the Saltus Gold Medal of the National Academy of Design in 1910, as well as the Academy's Maynard Portrait Prize in 1915. Volk was recognized by the American art world when he was elected to membership in the Society of American Artists (1880) and the National Academy of Design (1899).

The portrait may be viewed during Dana Library's events or by request to the Media Services Department (973/353-5917).

Posted August 31, 2009