Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 2

This post is part of a series that that will highlight some of the interesting provenance cases in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Collection. 

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Last time we looked at The Marriage Trap’s provenance and attribution just before and since its acquisition by the Milwaukee Art Museum. That’s usually the easiest part.

In this post, we’ll see how piecing together the ownership of a painting requires pulling information from a number of sources, thinking critically about what we find, and then sometimes making an educated guess (noted as such, of course). Continue reading

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Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 1

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676), The Marriage Trap, ca. 1640–60. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1974.233. Photo credit: John Nienhuis, Dedra Walls.

Jan Victors (Dutch, 1619–after 1676) was probably a student of the famous Dutch Golden Age artist Rembrandt (Dutch, 1606–1669). Just like his contemporaries, Victors created works with various popular subjects, including religious scenes, portraits, and genre paintings.

The Milwaukee Art Museum has a market scene in its collection which falls into this last category. The Marriage Trap is set along the familiar canals of Holland. A peasant wedding party is purchasing a fish for the ensuing celebration.

But the Dutch loved layering painting with many layers of symbolism–often for a humorous result.  Victor’s ability in combining realism with humor is illustrated by the context and placement of the fish.  It is most likely intended as a sexual metaphor!

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Bradley Collection Celebrates 40th Anniversary!

Mrs. Harry L. Bradley standing standing her "Girl in a Straw Hat" on exhibition in "Pierre Bonnard, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 7-November 29, 1964.

Mrs. Harry L. Bradley standing standing her “Girl in a Straw Hat” on exhibition in “Pierre Bonnard” exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 7-November 29, 1964.

This year the Milwaukee Art Museum celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Mrs. Harry L. Bradley Collection. Upon its donation in 1975, the collection elevated the status of the Milwaukee Art Museum from a local art museum to a museum with a world-class collection.

The collection contains an assortment of European and American paintings, prints, watercolors, and sculptures from the late nineteenth century to the early 1970s, including works by Braque, Picasso, and Kandinsky, to name a few. During my time at the Museum I had the chance to attend a Member lecture with Barbara Brown Lee, a longtime educator at the Museum and personal friend of Mrs. Bradley, to learn more about the collection and the woman behind it.

Margaret (Peg to her friends) Bradley was a Milwaukee native. She was married to Harry Lynde Bradley and the couple had one child, Jane. Mrs. Bradley was known locally for her philanthropy, and her popular dress shop, Zita’s. Nationally, Mrs. Bradley also was well known for her art collection.

Marc Chagall (French, b. Belarus, 1887–1985), The Horseman, 1966. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1973.602. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Marc Chagall (French, b. Belarus, 1887–1985), The Horseman, 1966. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1973.602. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Several museums courted Mrs. Bradley and asked her to be on their boards, hoping to secure her collection as a donation one day. The Bradleys felt strongly about giving back to Milwaukee and wanted to share their collection with the community.

In 1975, construction of the Bradley Wing at the Milwaukee Art Museum began. This wing would exclusively feature Mrs. Bradley’s vast collection of works by O’Keeffe and Picasso.

Two pieces from the collection specifically stand out to me as remarkable.

The first is an oil on canvas painting by Marc Chagall titled The Horseman. The message behind this painting is all about love. If you look closely you can see that the horseman’s body and the head of the horse form the shape of a heart. The images that surround the horseman and his horse are mythological lovers, flowers, a fiddler, and a mother with children. These figures suggest themes of love, courtship, and family in a Jewish community that is threatened by the burning houses in the background, a reference to the history of Jewish persecution.

Kees van Dongen (Dutch, 1877–1968), Woman with Cat, 1908. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1975.170. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Kees van Dongen (Dutch, 1877–1968), Woman with Cat, 1908. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1975.170. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The second piece that stood out to me within the Bradley Collection is Woman with Cat by Kees van Dongen. This painting of a woman cradling a black cat focuses on the contrasts between green and red, and between black and white. Because of the use of positives and negatives in this painting, the cat can be hard for some people to identify and often is mistaken for a long beard. I particularly like this painting because of the colors and how they stand out against the white oil background. The highlighting tricks van Dongen uses around the woman’s body help capture her figure and draw your eye to the woman. The contrast of black and white throughout the painting and the woman’s red hair really make this painting stand out.

Although these two great works are being stored while the Museum undergoes a major renovation, these and other paintings, including works from Pablo Picasso and Gabriele Münter, will be on view in the second-level Bradley Galleries once the renovation is complete in November.

Margaret Thelen  

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Intern Reflections

Museum visitors enjoy Matisse's painting "La Musique" which was on view this summer in the exhibition Van Gogh to Pollock: Modern Rebels. Photo by the author.

Museum visitors enjoy Matisse’s painting “La Musique” which was on view this summer in the exhibition Van Gogh to Pollock: Modern Rebels. Photo by the author.

Was it not just yesterday that I was only applying for the internship that is soon ending? I recall the nervous feelings that came with awaiting an email from the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) and the pure joy of actually receiving one. I feel thankful to have been given the opportunity to intern in such a highly regarded institution that, let’s face it, is also incredibly beautiful.

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From the Collection–Pablo Picasso’s The Cock of the Liberation

Many of the artists featured in the special exhibition Van Gogh to Pollock: Modern Rebels, Masterworks from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery are also represented in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum. This is the fifth in a series of blog posts that will highlight Milwaukee’s artworks during the run of the exhibition.

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), The Cock of the Liberation (Le Coq de la Liberation), 1944. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1959.372. Photo credit: Larry Sanders. © 2008 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), The Cock of the Liberation (Le Coq de la Liberation), 1944. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1959.372. Photo credit: Larry Sanders. © 2008 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) is not usually considered a political artist.  His favorite artistic subjects were still-lifes, portraits, harlequins, and other seemingly uncontroversial images.

But in some key instances, world events were an important influence on him.  We don’t have to look far to find an example: the Milwaukee Art Museum’s The Cock of the Liberation (Le Coq de la Liberation), painted by Picasso in 1944.

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