Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child South German ca. 1550 Solnhofen stone 7 1/4 x 6 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (18.42 x 16.51 x 4.45 cm) Gift of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III in loving memory of his sister Grace Vogel Aldworth (1932-2002)
South German, Virgin and Child, ca. 1550. Solnhofen stone, 7 1/4 x 6 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III in loving memory of his sister Grace Vogel Aldworth (1932-2002), M2003.67. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Sometimes with the rush of the holiday season, it is nice to take a deep breath and spend some time on your own.

In that spirit, I’d like to consider a small-scale stone relief Virgin and Child, ca. 1550.  You’ll find it at the Museum tucked in a case in Gallery #3, with works of the Northern Renaissance.

The artwork, carved in stone, is done in low relief and is set into a wood and silk case with a two-part hinged cover.   The small size allowed the owner to hold it in the palm of his or her hand for private contemplation and prayer.  The case is probably a later replacement, but it certainly would have had something similar to protect it when slipped into a drawer or carried for devotion during travel.

And what a beautiful image to inspire! 

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Neapolitan crèche (Nativity scene)

Naples Italy, Nativity Scene (Crèche), mid 1700s. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis. Photo by John R. Glembin.
Naples Italy, Nativity Scene (Crèche), mid 1700s. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

[Again for the 2011 holiday season, the Milwaukee Art Museum is thrilled to display the beloved Neopolitan crèche. Visit the Museum soon to enjoy this tradition with your family–the Nativity Scene will be on view through January 2012. Re-posted below is curator Catherine Sawinski’s 2010 blog post sharing the history of this artwork. ]

It’s that time of year again! The Museum’s Neapolitan crèche is on view in the galleries for the holiday season. You’ll find it in Gallery 4 of the Collection Galleries, with European art.

The origin of the popular Christmas tradition of re-staging the Nativity scene is usually credited to Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223. The custom reached its artistic height in eighteenth-century Naples, when the Museum’s version was made.

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Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Girolamo Mengozzi’s “Architectural Fantasy with Figures”

M1982.37
Attributed Girolamo Mengozzi, Architectural Fantasy with Figures, ca. 1750. Oil on canvas34 3/8 x 28 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Laskin,M1982.37. Photo by P. Richard Eels.

I have always loved architecture. As a child, nothing excited me more than a big old Victorian farmhouse. Greek Revival, Carpenter Gothic, Second Empire, Queen Anne—I was probably one of the only Wisconsin middle-schoolers who knew the nuances of American house design and could read—and draw—a floor plan.

As an undergraduate, one of my majors was Classical Civilization, and my interest in architecture easily translated to ancient buildings. When I studied in Rome during my junior year and was able to see ruins that I had been studying in photographs, I was so excited.

I actually cried a little when I walked into the Pantheon for the first time!

Working in the European department at the Milwaukee Art Museum doesn’t allow me a lot of possibilities to directly study architecture, but I have found one way to explore it indirectly. Tucked away in the corner of the Italian Baroque gallery (Gallery #6) is a painting that most visitors probably miss. It is Architectural Fantasy with Figures attributed to Girolamo Mengozzi (Italian, ca. 1688–ca. 1766).

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Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Léon Augustin Lhermitte’s “Haymaking Time”

Léon-Augustin Lhermitte, Haymaking Time (La Fenaison), 1897. Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 38 1/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society, M2010.68. Photo by John R. Glembin.

On October 14, the Milwaukee Art Museum opened the exhibition Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper.

The exhibition perfectly sets the scene for looking at a painting recently acquired by the Milwaukee Art Museum, shown at left as it looks mid-conservation.

Haymaking Time (La Fenaison) by the French artist Léon Augustin Lhermitte (1844–1925) is one of the most important paintings by an artist who was extremely influential in his day, but is not a household name today.

This painting can begin a conversation about how wide-ranging the term “impressionism” can be, and who was part of that celebrated movement, and who was not.

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European Modern

From the Collection–Hans Baluschek’s “Working-class City”

Hans Baluschek (German, 1870–1935), Arbeiterstadt (Working-class City), 1920. Oil on Canvas, 48 7/16 x 36 1/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society M2010.49. Photo by John R. Glembin
Hans Baluschek (German, 1870–1935), Arbeiterstadt (Working-class City), 1920. Oil on Canvas, 48 7/16 x 36 1/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society M2010.49. Photo by John R. Glembin.

The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought drastic and sometimes violent changes to European cities. By the beginning of the 20th century, artists in Germany were responding to the time’s social struggles and political unrest through their revolutionary artistic style and new subject matter.

The German Expressionists were one such art movement that reacted to these changes. Turning to simplified or distorted forms and bold colors, these artists tended to focused on humanistic themes and high emotion.

German Expressionism is one of the strengths of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection, which includes multiple works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Street at Schöneberg City Park, 1912–13), Ludwig Meidner (Portrait of a Young Man, 1912), Käthe Kollwitz (Self-Portrait; from the deluxe periodical The Creators, vol. 5, no. 1, 1924), Emil Nolde (Roses on Path, 1935), and Max Pechstein (Calla Lilies, 1914).

In October 2010, the Museum added a new dimension to its early 20th-century German collection by acquiring a painting by the artist Hans Baluschek (German, 1870-1935), which has just been put on display in Gallery #12 with other European Modernism.

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Table Clock with Orpheus Frieze

Probably Nuremberg, Germany  Table Clock with Orpheus Frieze, 1560/80 with later movement Gilt brass, brass, steel, blued steel, silver and blue enamel 3 1/2 x 9 3/4 in. (8.89 x 24.77 cm) Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg M1991.84  Photo credit John Nienhuis
Probably Nuremberg, Germany, Table Clock with Orpheus Frieze, 1560-80 with later movement. Gilt brass, brass, steel, blued steel, silver and blue enamel, 3 1/2 h x 9 3/4 inch diameter. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Richard and Erna Flagg, M1991.84. Photo by John Nienhuis.

When you visit the European galleries of the Milwaukee Art Museum, you may have noticed that in the “Renaissance Treasury” gallery (gallery #2) there are a lot of clocks!

These aren’t the wristwatches and battery-powered kitchen clocks that most of us have in our homes and offices.  With their highly decorative cases, these special clocks show highly-skilled and artful metalwork that celebrated a new way of time-keeping during the Renaissance.

Until the 14th century, time-keeping was not systematic at all.  The only way to tell time was to look at the sun, or to use a sun-dial, but that was tricky because the length of the day changed so much over the course of a year.  Another option was to use a water clock, which used flowing water to move gears, but they were large and cumbersome—and not always very accurate.

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection—Charlotte-Françoise DeBure by Catherine Lusurier

Charlotte-Françoise DeBure PAINTINGS Lusurier, Catherine French, 1752-1781 1776 Oil on canvas H. 29 1/2 x 24 in. Bequest of Arthur & Noryne Riebs (M1959.80)
 Catherine Lusurier (French, ca. 1752-1781), “Charlotte-Françoise DeBure”, 1776. Oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 24 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Bequest of Arthur & Noryne Riebs. (M1959.80) Photo by Larry Sanders.

One thing to keep in mind when you look at art is not to trust the labels. Well, I don’t mean the labels that museums put on the wall next to the artwork–we try to make those as accurate as possible. I mean that you should not trust the little metal plaques that sometimes decorate the frames of many older artworks. Why? Let me tell you one an example.

Tucked in one of the side niches in the Museum’s 18th-century French room, Gallery #8, is a painting of a young girl. Decked out in her lace finery, her blonde hair pulled back with a pink ribbon in that matches her pink dress and posed with a basket of flowers, she is the epitome of a blushing sweet child.

The ornately carved frame has a metal label at center bottom that reads “H. DROUAIS, le fils”. You’d assume this must be the artist or the subject. But upon looking at the Museum’s object label, you see that the painting is a likeness of young Charlotte-Françoise DeBure by the artist Catherine Lusurier, who lived from about 1753 to 1781. Neither of them is named Drouais.

So, what’s going on with that frame plaque?

Categories
Behind the Scenes Curatorial

We Couldn’t Do It Without Interns

In 2004, interns helped put new labels out in the collection galleries.

So much of what we do at the Milwaukee Art Museum depends on volunteers. In the Curatorial department, most of my volunteers are college interns. These dedicated students are willing to give their time and energy to us in exchange for the experience of working at the Museum.

Over the past ten years, I have supervised over 100 interns. At times I have had as many as eleven interns at once! Their enthusiasm and intelligence are invigorating. Most interns commit to working 10-15 hours a week for a semester. Sometimes they intern for college credit, but just as often not. I have had interns stay and help me for years after their coursework is done—which is wonderful, because they can work on long-term projects and mentor new interns.

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Miss Frances Lee by Francis Cotes

Francis Cotes (English, 1726-1770), Portrait of Miss Frances Lee, 1769. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Vogel M1964.5. Photo by Larry Sanders.

The Milwaukee Art Museum has in its collection a beautiful portrait by Francis Cotes, one of the highlights of the Museum’s Gallery of 18th century English and Italian Works (gallery #7, main level).

Cotes’ story is an interesting one.  Francis Cotes’ (English, 1726–1770) fame as a portrait painter in eighteenth-century England was surpassed only by that of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough—and many feel that if he had not died so early in his career at age 44, his name would not have faded into obscurity.

Cotes was particularly talented in working with pastel, evident even in his oil paintings which use bright yet delicate colors and contrasting textures.  Examples of pastels by Cotes are at the Cleveland Museum of Art and in The Frick Collection.  Some oil paintings by Cotes are in the Tate, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the National Museum of Wales.

Cotes was particularly successful with likenesses of children, since they have an unaffected immediacy lacking in the more formal, decoratively detailed society portraits.  Portraits of children can be found at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Speed Museum of Art.

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection—Portrait by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein

In 1988, the Milwaukee Art Museum purchased a painting by Carl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein, one of the most important German portraitists of the early 19th century. Up until that point, most of the paintings in the Museum’s German collection were from the second half of the 19th century, so this was a significant acquisition.  You can find it on the bright blue wall in Gallery 9.

The portrait is a fantastic example of German neoclassical style blended with Biedermeier attention to detail. The upper-class gentleman, dressed expensively and with his jewelry prominently displayed, sits comfortably in an elaborately carved chair. The chair, with a griffin as the armrest, is gilded and upholstered in dark blue—an interpretation of ancient Roman furniture. Behind him is a gilded desk with marble top, again a quote from the ancient world, and a window with a luxurious dark red velvet curtain pulled up to show a city in the distance. The sitter is well-educated, shown by the books spread out on the table and the roll of paper with writing in his hand. He also wears the Maltese Cross on his jacket.

The question is, who is this man?