“My Adopted State”: Arthur Carrara in Wisconsin

Arthur Carrara in his studio, Kettle Moraine, Wisconsin, ca. 1964. Published in Recent Works: 1960-1965 (1965). Photo by John Cornwall/Arthur Carrara.

Architect and designer Arthur A. Carrara (American, 1914–1995) was born in Chicago and worked in locations across the world, from Buffalo, New York to the Philippines. But for Carrara, Wisconsin felt like home; in his 1964 retrospective catalog he fondly described Wisconsin as “my adopted state.”[1] Over the course of his multifaceted career, Carrara worked repeatedly in Wisconsin—creating homes for private clients, designing exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Center, and eventually building a studio for himself in the state’s Kettle Moraine region. Continue reading

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Curating Ho-Chunk Objects in Mrs. M.—–’s Cabinet at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Egg basket (circa 1900).

Egg basket (circa 1900).

Ho-Chunk presence and their arts contributed to the development of Wisconsin Dells tourism—and to the material and aesthetic culture of the state. While Ho-Chunk representation is not always considered by tourists beyond stereotypical art for the trade, there is still a long and well-documented history of Ho-Chunk material life in the Wisconsin Dells area. The Ho-Chunk objects currently on exhibition in Mrs. M.—–’s Cabinet, are not the expected souvenirs of the Wisconsin Dells trade, but give a glimpse into the unfamiliar Ho-Chunk objects made and used in the Dells in the late 19th century.

In the exhibition Photographing Nature’s Cathedrals: Carleton E. Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and H.H. Bennett, an image by Henry Hamilton Bennett illustrates the acknowledgement of the unseen Native American presence within the Wisconsin Dells landscape. Looking out from Black Hawk’s Cave is one example of Bennett labeling his photographs with fictional place names and after real historical figures. Bennett used the Sauk Chief’s name in an effort to sell a romanticized American Indian legend to tourists.  Continue reading

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Playful Design, Serious Message: Learning & Play in the 1970s

A selection of educational products from the 1970s, recently installed in MAM’s 20th- and 21st- Century Design Galleries, tells the story of two pressing issues in the United States during the period through the lens of design for children.

Kent Dickinson (American, active 1970s), manufactured by Odlot Game Company (United States, active 1970s), Metradoms: a Game of Metric Dominos, 1976. Plastic and paper. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Ostroff M2017.28. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Kent Dickinson (American, active 1970s), manufactured by Odlot Game Company (United States, active 1970s), Metradoms: a Game of Metric Dominos, 1976. Plastic and paper. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Daniel Ostroff M2017.28. Photo by John R. Glembin.

First, the issue of metric conversion is represented by the record album Songs of Metric Man and the game Metradoms: A Games of Metric Dominos (a recent addition to MAM’s Design Collection). Both aimed to teach children how to use the metric system in anticipation of “metrification,” or the adoption of metrics as the standard system of measurement in the United States. From our twenty-first-century perspective, this may not seem like a particularly divisive political issue, but in the 1970s, American were divided between those who perceived the shift from feet to meters as step towards greater economic and scientific cooperation with the rest of the world, and those who viewed the system as an unwelcome invasion of foreign customs.

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20th- and 21st-Century Design: New Acquisitions Now On View

Spring cleaning isn’t just for attics—the Museum’s Design Galleries were recently refreshed with a new coat of paint and numerous recent acquisitions. From turn-of-the-century silver to twenty-first-century furniture, these objects demonstrate the wide range of what we mean by “design” at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Josef Hoffmann (Austrian, 1870–1956), produced by Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna, Austria, 1903–1932), Basket, 1905. Silver and ivory. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from the Demmer Charitable Trust, M2017.56. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Josef Hoffmann (Austrian, 1870–1956), produced by Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna, Austria, 1903–1932), Basket, 1905. Silver and ivory. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from the Demmer Charitable Trust, M2017.56. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Among the newly-installed acquisitions, the earliest is a silver basket from 1905. This piece was designed by Josef Hoffmann at the Wiener Werkstätte, a workshop in Vienna that Hoffmann co-founded with fellow designer Koloman Moser in 1903.  The workshop sought to eliminate boundaries between art and design; it brought together artists, designers, and architects, who produced textiles, ceramics, metalwork, and more. This basket’s elegant gridwork is an excellent example of how Hoffmann created visual interest through an object’s structure, rather than by adding additional ornamentation.

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From the Collection–An Update on Meissen

Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710), Two-Handled Urn, 1814-60. Porcelain with hand-painted overglaze decoration and gilding. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1962.248. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710), Two-Handled Urn, 1814-60. Porcelain with hand-painted overglaze decoration and gilding. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1962.248. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

It’s always exciting when new research comes to light!

Just last month, while preparing for a lecture on Meissen in the Milwaukee Art museum collection, I discovered new information related to an object from an earlier post, the Meissen urn at left.

When last researching the urn in 2015, I was pretty sure that it was made by Meissen Porcelain Manufactory, the important German company, because it was marked on the bottom with crossed swords in blue. It has the snake handles popular on these types of vessels, particularly in the nineteenth century. The scene on the vase is the Greek myth of the Calydonian boar hunt.

At the time, I thought that maybe our urn was a Meissen porcelain blank painted by a skilled artist not associated with the factory–this was based upon finding another vase with the same boar hunt online that was only identified as “German”.

But the high quality of the painting on our urn made it such a showpiece, that I was convinced that there was more to find. So, when I was asked to give a lecture on Meissen in the collection, I thought I’d take another look.

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