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Willis W. Fahnstock [1853–1920]


[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

FAHNSTOCK, Willis Winthrop [1853–1920]

Portrait of my Father / Elias Fahnstock

oil on canvas / 18.1 inches by 14.2 inches


Willis was the son of early Agincourt investor Elias Fahnstock and older brother of the community’s earliest physician Rudyard “Doc” Fahnstock. Willis studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia — yet another connection between Agincourt and that renowned school — then returned East to the family place at New Castle, Delaware.

The portrait subject Elias Fahnstock was the first investor outside the original Founders in the Agincourt adventure, and also the founder in his own right of the village that bears the family name eight miles east. The portrait style is loosely reflective of the Newlyn School, a British artist colony on the coast of Cornwall, which Fahnstock may have visited.* A second Newlyn School began operation about 2010 but is devoted to Modernism.

Descendants of the Fahnstock family have only recently donated this fine piece to the Community Collection as a memorial to their name hereabouts.

* Faint markings on the reverse of the painting confirm the “Newlyn” connection: it is inscribed “James Lanham Ltd. / Frame Maker / St. Ives / Cornwall.” The Lanham Galleries were central to several artist colonies. It formed about 1887-1889 and remained in family ownership until 1911, which confirms to the dates Fahnstock was in England. [Information courtesy of Milton Yergens]

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