Last week I had the opportunity to drop in on a new event at the Museum. It was a one-hour exhibition featuring “Winter Scenes Across the Ages” from the prints and drawings collection. It was a perfect winter day, all blizzardy as I walked to my internship at the Museum. A better setting could not have been wished for to coincide with the winter theme of the pop-up exhibition.
I had encountered this event through the Museum’s Web site, on the Calendar + Events page. I try to check it regularly as not to miss out on the numerous special programs that are available. I was thrilled at the opportunity to encounter art that is so rarely seen by the public (how exciting!) And, as someone interested in the inner workings of museums, I thought it was simply a brilliant idea! Museums try to find new ways to engage the public and share their collections, and to me this seemed like a lively way to see prints and drawings based on a timely issue. In this case: Winter!
The Museum’s one-hour exhibitions series will feature prints, drawings, and photographs that make up a large number of artwork in the Herzfeld Foundation Print, Drawing, and Photography Study Center that cannot be on view for extended periods because of their vulnerability to light exposure.
In the “Winter Scenes Across the Ages,” curator Mary Weaver Chapin presented a variety of works that depicted winter in some way, through assorted techniques and by different artists. Although all of the works were pleasing to the eye, four especially captured my imagination.
Winter Garden (at right) was a stunning color woodcut on paper by Keiji Shinohara (Japanese, b. 1955), showing stark limbs of thin trees before a lovely soft blue backdrop with a pattern of darker blue leaves.
East Side Street in Winter (at top and shown larger at bottom) by Richard H. Jansen (American, 1910–1988) was a gouache showing a nearly empty Milwaukee street, framed by the robust color of residences leading your eye to a solitary man at the end of the street.
Burial Procession with Umbrellas (L’Enterrement aux Parapluies), a color woodcut on paper by Henri Rivière (French, 1864–1951), evokes the somber emotion inherent at a funeral. As you can see in the image below, a long line of mourners trudge behind a horse and carriage while they shield the gray rain that is coming down in sheets. Faces are obscured by umbrellas, but we can imagine their expressions. In style and color and mood, Burial Procession with Umbrellas seems to convey the idea “Could things get any worse?”
Finally, Emil Nolde’s Cottage on the North Sea in Winter was a watercolor that reflects much of the wonder and beauty I find when passing by Lake Michigan each day. But also Nolde’s work somehow makes me dream of the far north and the magical light of the Aurora Borealis, dancing in the sky, over a dark winter landscape. As a Museum intern, I was able to look up the work in the Museum’s database of artwork, and learned that “the watercolor is the view from Nolde’s house and studio at Seebüll [Germany] towards the neighboring farm at Hülltoft. At the right a part of the sea, the Hülltoft Deeps, can be seen.”
In the Museum’s one-hour exhibition of winter scenes, I enjoyed seeing how differently all the artists encountered and chose to represent winter. It made me reflect on my own winter experience earlier that day walking to the Museum, insulated by the snow falling all around me. Whether in the real winter wonderland, or seeing it depicted in great artwork, I escaped into my own world, free to daydream as I often do in those moments.
One of my favorite parts about my walk is looking out over the lake and the Museum buildings as I approach the Quadracci Pavilion in winter. At times its wings are spread wide, embracing the day, and other times its pointed head can be seen peeking above its shoulders, as if wrapped in a blanket while it rests its appendages. This outdoor lake scene, water and sky, is a constantly changing canvas, with a continuous cast of characters, birds and great steel ships of all different sorts making cameos as they move through this frame. Sometimes the water is concealed by fog, while at others large groups of birds can be seen huddled, floating together to shield themselves from the frigid chill in the air. What a contrast it is to the clear skies of summer, with delicate sailboats atop mirror-like water shimmering in the distance.
After last week’s one-hour exhibition, the beauty of winter is on my mind. I look forward to discovering other one-hour exhibitions highlighting a different theme, style, medium, or artist each month.
The next one-hour exhibition features “Love in the Lens” photographs with curator Lisa Hostetler on Tuesday, Feb 21, 1:30–2:30 p.m. and Thursday, Feb 23, 5–6 p.m. More are planned through the spring, so watch the Museum calendar for details!
-Lydelle Abbott, Museum curatorial intern