When I was a freshman in high school, I came to the Milwaukee Art Museum on a field trip with my art class. We were instructed to sit in front of Jules Bastien-Lepage’s The Woodgatherer (1881) and take as many notes as possible on what we saw and what it meant to us, so that we could later write a paper on it.
I was first and foremost impressed with the size of the image. A painting of that size is bound to leave an impression on a 13-year-old art enthusiast. Second to the size, I was impressed with the weight and mass of the bundle of sticks that this old man was able to carry on his back. This elderly man is depicted with a slender body and an aged face. He is a typical grandfather figure, but his hidden strength is nothing less than astonishing. There is an obvious contrast between the little girl and this grandfather figure. The living, thriving and flourishing flowers and surrounding nature is associated with the youthful girl playing in a vibrant bright blue dress. We see the circle of life contrasting the flowers and the young girl with the heavy weight of the bundle of dead sticks the man is carrying. He carries this weight, and his soil-colored garments reflect the idea of death and the eventual return to the earth.
Fast forward thirteen years and I find myself blessed enough to be working in this amazing Museum here in Milwaukee. Not only do I get to be surrounded by all this art, I am surrounded by all its amazing patrons and art enthusiasts. I work at the admissions desk and meet the most extreme and diverse people. I hear amazing stories and connect with interesting characters. Many visitors are ecstatic to see their favorite painting on the Members gift bag—which features The Woodgatherer! Oh, how life always seems to eventually connect and circle back around. I continuously hear:
“This is my favorite artwork!”
“I love this piece. Can I buy the bag?”
“Beautiful reproduction. Gorgeous work!”
I even had one woman recently go into a frenzy, exclaiming: “My son wrote his thesis paper on this piece! He’s working on his doctorate now. I have to have this!”
Unfortunately this bag is not for sale, but I explain to them that they can receive the bag when purchasing a new membership at any level at the Museum. Even better, you can get two bags when purchasing a gift membership for someone else—one to go with the gift and one for yourself! It’s a gift that gives back, and is even tax-deductible.
Stop in to the front desk soon and receive your free bag with the purchase of a year’s worth of free admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum. (Or, you can always visit our Museum website to find out more information about membership.) I look forward to meeting you. Come with a good story!
Visitor Services Representative