In the past, in posts related to provenance (or the history of an artwork, such as who has owned it and where it’s been), we’ve talked a little bit about credit lines. Credit lines are the part of an object label that tells you how the Milwaukee Art Museum acquired that artwork. The most common credit lines are gifts or bequests, but we also purchase artwork with funds given to us for that reason.
Today, I want to explore the story behind a more unusual credit line.
At the beginning of August, we opened our third exhibition in the European works on paper gallery. Corot, Daubigny, Miller: Visions of France is an opportunity to see how nineteenth century French artists experimented with the new technique of cliché-verre (glass negative), which combined elements of printmaking and photography. In 1921, the Parisian art dealer and publisher Maurice Le Garrec put together in a publication forty-one of these innovative prints by leading practitioners. Until November 27, you’ll be able see all of them on view!
In preparing for the installation, something struck me. In the last year, just since we unveiled the new galleries, most of the prints that have been on view in the European works on paper gallery have had the same credit line: Gertrude Nunnemacher Schuchardt Collection, presented by William H. Schuchardt. In fact, 61 of the 76 prints that have been on the walls uses this credit line. This got me wondering. Who are the Schuchardts?
You may remember that one of the things that I get to do while researching the European collection is document the provenance of the artworks. And this includes researching the donors mentioned in our credit lines. We have so many donor names in our database after 125 years of collecting! Much of the time, biographical information was not collected at the time of acquisition, and if there is any information, it is spread out in the Museum in a number of different locations. So, as I work on provenance research, I get to bring this information together into one place, while at the same time filling in some of the holes in the Milwaukee Art Museum story.
So, where does one start researching? Well, usually on the internet. The first thing I did was a keyword search for William H. Schuchardt. I quickly discovered that he and his twin brother, Carl, were born in Milwaukee on April 28, 1874. Their mother was a Milwaukee native and their father was from Germany.
William Schuchardt first attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison before graduating from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He eventually came back to Milwaukee to establish his career as an architect. Many of his projects were homes for important Milwaukee citizens. A few that still exist are the homes of Theodore F. Vogel on Lake Drive, Augustus F. Chapman on Terrace Avenue, and Dr. A. T. Holbrook on Kenwood Boulevard. Schuchardt also designed the 1915 Neo-Gothic-style Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1905 W. Wisconsin Avenue.
In 1924, Schuchardt was made President of the Milwaukee Public Land Commission, a body created by Mayor Daniel W. Hoan to investigate and recommend action related to things such as city planning, park lighting, street paving, and waterway improvements. Schuchardt was periodically quoted in newspaper articles while in this role–I even found one that reports that he supported the adoption of “an electrical system of signals, operated by a master tower, to control traffic for the distance of one mile on Grand Avenue and Wells Street”–in other words, a traffic light!
One of Schuchardt’s projects that combined his interest in city planning and his career as an architect was the Garden Homes District. The Garden Homes District was proposed by Milwaukee socialist’s mayor Emil Seidel and was meant to improve living conditions in Milwaukee. Built between 1921 and 1923, the 29 acre neighborhood of mainly single family homes was the U.S.’s first municipally-sponsored, community-owned housing project. Schuchardt designed simple, two-story, gabled homes in the Colonial Revival style, probably inspired by his visit to the garden cities of England in a trip to Europe in 1911.
The intense local debate about the appropriateness and the cost of the Garden Homes project, as well as the demand of the residents for individual ownership, disillusioned Schuchardt so much that he left Milwaukee to teach at Cornell in 1926 and never returned. He eventually moved to California, where he died on April 17, 1958.
So that’s William’s story. What about Gertrude Nunnemacher Schuchardt? She was William’s wife. She was born in 1889 as the daughter of two people from prominent Milwaukee families: Rudolph Nunnemacher and Emilie Vogel. She and William married in 1911.
I wasn’t able to find much about Gertrude’s life. Except for how it ended.
According to an article in the August 27, 1919 Los Angeles Herald, Gertrude shot herself in the chest in a downtown Los Angeles hotel. She was traveling with William, then working as the president and general manager of the Pelton Steel Co. in Milwaukee, after she had suffered “a physical and mental breakdown.” The article ends with the section entitled “Couple Had No Children,” with information from William that he and Gertrude were planning to adopt. Is this a suggestion that Gertrude was depressed because she couldn’t be a natural mother? Most likely. She was only 30 years old when she killed herself.
Gertrude Nunnemacher Schuchardt’s body was returned to Milwaukee for burial at Forest Home Cemetery. Her husband commissioned the great American sculptor Paul Manship (1885–1966) to make a decorative plaque for the tombstone. (Manship also designed the Prometheus fountain at Rockefeller Center.)
Particularly interesting for us is that the Los Angeles Herald article mentions in passing that Gertrude was an artist. My sense is that because the Schuchardts did not have much time to start an art collection, William decided that buying art to give in her name to the Milwaukee Art Institute (the predecessor of the Milwaukee Art Museum) would be a fitting and lasting tribute. By 1924, he had purchased 171 prints for this gift. He traveled the U.S. and Europe in order to buy at important auctions and from top dealers. Some of the names he collected in depth are Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796–1875), Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528), Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, 1720→1788), Rembrandt (Dutch, 1606–1669), and Anders Zorn (Swedish, 1860–1820). These are still an important part of the European print collection, and every time they have been on view, they have been celebrated with newspaper articles and accolades from the public.
And, as if that weren’t enough, William Schuchardt established an endowed acquisition fund to support the purchase of works on paper for the collection. Since 1924, the Schuchardt Fund has been used to add over 150 prints and drawings to the collection. Just a few of the artists represented include Claude Lorrain (French, active in Italy, 1604–1682), Francisco de Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828), John Constable (English, 1776–1837), Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910), Lovis Corinth (German, 1858–1625), Man Ray (American, 1890–1976), Sol LeWitt (Ameican, 1928–2007), and Ed Ruscha (American, born 1937).
And, the Schuchardt Fund is still in existence! It was used most recently in 2011 for the purchase of a book of lithographs by the Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka (1896–1980).
It is clear that William Schuchardt’s desire to honor his wife’s memory through gifts of art has worked, for here we are, almost a hundred years after Gertrude Schuchardt’s death, displaying the prints that he gave us, acquiring more artworks through the acquisition fund, and giving their story its due with a blog post. A gift to the collection is truly a gift that keeps on giving!
I have been unable to locate an image of William Schuchardt. But, in 1938, Gertrude’s mother gave to the Milwaukee Art Institute a bust of her daughter by the American artist G. Salvatore Cartaino Scarpitta (left). The bust is still in the collection, although not currently on view.
One final note: unfortunately, most of the Schuchardt prints are not currently available on our collections website. I continue to review, update, and approve the object records for the web, with the goal of getting all of them online as soon as we can!
Catherine Sawinski is the Assistant Curator of Earlier European Art. When not handling the day-to-day running of the European art department and the Museum’s Fine Arts Society, she researches the collection of Ancient and European artwork before 1900.