125 Years and Counting

"When Democracy Builds". Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. November 1945. Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 1.

“When Democracy Builds”. Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. November 1945. Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 1.

We owe it to the awakening interest in art matters
and the democratic spirit of the society,
which is attempting to make the gallery
a valuable asset to every citizen and
to inculcate an appreciation of its offerings.

–Samuel O. Buckner, President, Milwaukee Art Institute. “Art Gallery Rapidly Growing in Popularity.” Free Press, Dec 23, 1913

In 2013, the Milwaukee Art Museum will celebrate its 125th anniversary. Since 1888, the Museum has featured over 3,600 exhibitions, acquired 30,000+ objects, and published hundreds of exhibition and Collection catalogues. The Museum has been instrumental in setting national standards for excellence in art education, and has also erected visionary architecture. An exciting 125 years indeed!

Children in the Layton Art Gallery space, early 20th century. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

Children in the Layton Art Gallery space, early 20th century. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

Considering that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 and the Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879, the Museum’s beginnings are rooted among some very important company. While other arts organizations across the nation struggled and failed over the past 125 years, the Museum continued to build a long list of forward-thinking accomplishments, including…

In 1913, the Milwaukee Art Society mounted a sale exhibition of 25 paintings by African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner.

In 1914, Dudley Crafts Watson, Director of the Milwaukee Art Society, and the artist Manierre Dawson, curated The Modern Spirit: Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture. The exhibition was inspired by the New York Armory Show of 1913, officially known as The International Exhibition of Modern Art. Milwaukee’s was first exhibition of modern art at a museum, just one year after the Armory Show introduced Modernism to America. See the exhibition catalogue here.

In May 1916, the Milwaukee Art Institute featured the premiere exhibition of American Modernists, including Charles Sheeler, Morton Livingston Schaumberg, Charles Demuth, and John Marin.

In December 1931, the Milwaukee Art Institute exhibited Photographs by Moholy-Nagy.

Exterior façade of the Milwaukee Art Institute, early 20th century. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

Exterior façade of the Milwaukee Art Institute, early 20th century. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

In November 1945, When Democracy Builds, an important Frank Lloyd Wright retrospective organized by Mary Frances “Polly” Coan at the Milwaukee Art Institute, broke all previous attendance records with 11,868 visitors over four weeks.

In September 1954, the First Annual Exhibition of Creative Photography from six states, sponsored by Boston Store and Milwaukee Photo-Pictorialists, was held at the Milwaukee Art Institute. Purchases of works of art from the exhibition inaugurate the permanent collection of photographs at the Institute.

In December 1966, Milwaukee Art Center organizes Fernando Botero’s first major one-person exhibition in the United States.

In 1968, the Milwaukee Art Center organized the first U.S. museum exhibition outside of New York City for the artist Cy Twombly.

While this is only a snapshot of Museum milestones, this handful of events highlights the fact that the Museum’s success would not have been possible without your patronage or participation. So I invite you to tell us your story:

  • What was the first exhibit you attended?
  • What has been your favorite exhibition?
  • What is your favorite object?
  • Did you take art classes at the Layton Art School or the Milwaukee Art Museum?

We look forward to a year of excitement and celebration and cheers to the next 125 years!

Heather Winter manages and oversees the Museum’s George Peckham Miller Art Research Library, the institutional archives and the rare books collection.
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One Response to 125 Years and Counting

  1. Pingback: Botero’s Abu Ghraib art exhibited in Washington, D.C. | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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