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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

MAM Behind-the-Scenes: Where Did They Go?

Academic Gallery with Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Academic Gallery with Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

There are some things in the Museum that are always changing—exhibition galleries, works on paper, portrait miniatures. But sometimes we make smaller changes to those galleries that seem to be “permanent”. For instance, every once in a while, individual artworks disappear from the walls and are replaced by others. Have you ever wondered why?

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at two different reasons that paintings in the European galleries have gone off view and learn a little about the things that replaced them.

First, let’s look at the Layton Art Collection’s fabulous painting Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. This monumental painting—it’s almost 7 feet tall!— usually hangs in the Academic Gallery, S200. It’s not on view right now because it is out on loan.

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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

MAM Behind-the-Scenes: Rotating the Collection

Gallery with Portrait Miniatures at Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: Tina Schinabeck.
Gallery with Portrait Miniatures at Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: Tina Schinabeck.

The Milwaukee Art Museum, like many other large museums, has so much art that it is impossible to display it all at once; there is just not enough space in the galleries.

Instead, the museum often rotates their installations, allowing the largest amount of objects to be displayed—just at different times. This also lets the curators to explore many different narratives using the permanent collection.

One such rotating installation is the display of portrait miniatures. Located in the gallery that contains most of the eighteenth-century European material, the portrait miniatures make a fascinating case study on just how the Milwaukee Art Museum goes about rotating artwork.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World, a New Installation: Part 2

View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.
View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is currently featuring an installation that was developed by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students enrolled in the course “Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World.” The project resulted in the display of seven acquisitions by the Chipstone Foundation. The exhibition opened to the public on Sunday, December 18th and will run throughout the spring.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is one of five galleries, located in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Wing, that are curated by the Chipstone Foundation. In the fall of 2016, Chipstone Curator and Director of Research Dr. Sarah Anne Carter taught a graduate seminar in museum studies in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Art History Department. The seven creative and up-and-coming student curators in this course researched and developed the innovative installations found in this exhibition in order to expand and enhance Mrs. M.––––– ’s mysterious story.

Each student was assigned an object to research and install in the cabinet as part of the museum studies course. Their challenge was to create an installation that fit in with the theme of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet: her desire to create a nuanced and complete history of America and its material cultures.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World, a New Installation: Part 1

View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.
View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is currently featuring an installation that was developed by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students enrolled in the course “Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World.” The project resulted in the display of seven acquisitions by the Chipstone Foundation. The exhibition opened to the public on Sunday, December 18th and will run throughout the spring.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is one of five galleries, located in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Wing, that are curated by the Chipstone Foundation. In the fall of 2016, Chipstone Curator and Director of Research Dr. Sarah Anne Carter taught a graduate seminar in museum studies in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Art History Department. The seven creative and up-and-coming student curators in this course researched and developed the innovative installations found in this exhibition in order to expand and enhance Mrs. M.––––– ’s mysterious story.

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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Contemporary Curatorial Prints and Drawings

From the Vault: Rubber Stamp Portfolio, 1977

Tom Wesselmann (American, 1931–2004), Shiny Nude, from the Rubber Stamp Portfolio, 1976, published 1977. Rubber stamp print, printed in color. Image: 5 7/8 × 5 11/16 in. (14.92 × 14.45 cm); sheet: 8 × 8 in. (20.32 × 20.32 cm). Gift of Virginia M. and J. Thomas Maher III M1994.263.1. © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Tom Wesselmann (American, 1931–2004), Shiny Nude, from the Rubber Stamp Portfolio, 1976, published 1977. Rubber stamp print, printed in color. Image: 5 7/8 × 5 11/16 in. (14.92 × 14.45 cm); sheet: 8 × 8 in. (20.32 × 20.32 cm). Gift of Virginia M. and J. Thomas Maher III M1994.263.1. © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

As the Collections Manager of Works on Paper, one of my duties is to facilitate the movement of the prints, drawings and photography in the collection for exhibitions, rotations, loans and viewings for researchers in the Herzfeld Study Center.

Our works on paper storage vault is organized into logical, easy-to-use groupings by size, century, nationality and then by artist’s last name (OK; it’s highly organized).

While pulling a print to go on view in the galleries, I stumbled upon a print by Carl Andre from a portfolio that I have never worked with before.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center

Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center. Photo credit: John Glembin.
Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center. Photo credit: John Glembin.

Did you know that nearly half of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection consists of works on paper? We have more than 15,000 rare prints, drawings, photographs, and book arts.

Works on paper cannot be shown indefinitely, because they are light-sensitive; light will cause them to fade.  Accordingly, in order to preserve them in the best condition possible, they are rotated.  A rotation is when one work is taken off view and replaced with another, usually every three to four months.

The Museum has a number of new spaces dedicated to works on paper.  The focus of these areas range from European prints and drawings (Gallery S202), to modern art from the Bradley Collection (Gallery K215), to Folk and Self-Taught art (Gallery K122). When not on view, those works on paper are stored safely in the dark.

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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 4

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.

With The Marriage Trap as an example, we have seen that it is an immense task to do provenance research for all paintings that were probably in Europe from 1933 through 1945! Museums, however, have accepted this ongoing project as an important part of the stewardship of their collections.

In this particular instance, at least we know that our painting was processed through the appropriate channels after World War II. It was returned to Austria for restitution to its owner; we do not know who ended up with the painting. All we can do is be transparent about the provenance and hope more information comes to light in the future.

So, now that we’re done as much as we can about the provenance with the resources easily available to us, all of the documentation goes into the file for the object.  Then, it’s time to write up the information for our collection database.  Like most museums, the Milwaukee Art Museum uses a database for keeping track of all things related to the collection.  We use one called The Museum System, or TMS, You can see a screen shot of it at the bottom of this post.

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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

Questions of Provenance—The Marriage Trap by Jan Victors, Part 3

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.

In the last two posts we’ve looked at the earliest known and most recent provenance of our painting The Marriage Trap.

We also know that in 1947 the painting was processed at the Munich Central Collecting Point, or MCCP.

This means that the painting was looted by the Nazis during World War II.

The MCCP was one of the offices set up by the Allied forces at the end of World War II to process the repositories of Nazi-confiscated works of art. These stashes were hidden in Germany and Austria. Managed by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Service (MFA&A) of the military, they were staffed by soldiers and art historians that became known as the Monuments Men. Collecting points were also set up in Marburg, Wiesbaden, and Offenbach. The one in Munich, however, was the largest. The offices there handled a wide variety of material such as painting, sculpture, textiles, and metalwork.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

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).

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

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!

Recently, The Marriage Trap was on our list for submission to the Art Loss Register. A quick look at the thick object file—where we keep records and correspondence related to one artwork—showed me that there was some untangling to do! So, I carefully read through everything, looked for more resources, and double checked it all before organizing it in a clearly stated entry for our collection database.