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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

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.

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Behind the Scenes

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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Behind the Scenes Education

Reflections of an Intern: On Teaching and Mission Statements

The 2015 Spring Satellite Interns. Photo by Front Room Photography
The 2015 Spring Satellite Interns. Photo by Front Room Photography
Reflecting back on my time at the Milwaukee Art Museum interning with the Satellite High School Program brings many valuable memories and thoughts to the surface. I’ve been privileged to have had the opportunity to work with dozens of bright, creative, and enthusiastic students from high schools around Milwaukee. Looking back on those weekly Thursday meetings, there are too many good times to mention. There were not so good times too–students having difficulty with final projects, frustrations with resume editing, and challenges giving tours to younger kids. These are the situations that make a pre-service teacher like me stronger; I was forced to come up with strategies for helping to work through student’s problems along with them in a way that was conducive to their unique learning styles.

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Behind the Scenes Education

Community Collaborations: Art and Music with H2O Milwaukee Music

H2O Milwaukee Music visits the Spring 2015 Satellite interns. Photo by Satellite teens
H2O Milwaukee Music visits the Spring 2015 Satellite interns. Photo by Satellite teens
Four years ago, in 2011, I was introduced to Dwight and Marquis Gilbert — otherwise known as H2O Milwaukee Music — and the teen programs at the Milwaukee Art Museum were forever changed.

Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but collaborating with Dwight and Marquis has without a doubt been one of the highlights of my teaching work here at the Museum. Dwight and Marquis are cousins and Milwaukee natives with a deep passion for music. Their organization, H2O Milwaukee Music, creates after-school programs that teach youth music theory, technology, and life skills in a super engaging way: by empowering them to create their own tracks (and even music videos). Back in 2011, I was experimenting with mashing up other disciplines with art, and when I heard about what Dwight and Marquis do, I was so excited to bring them in to experiment with our teen programs.

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Behind the Scenes

“Restore. Reinstall. Reimagine” at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Construction will be continuing throughout the summer, leading  up to the gallery’s reopening in fall 2015. Photo by Brady Roberts
Construction will be continuing throughout the summer, leading up to the gallery’s reopening in fall 2015. Photo by Brady Roberts
I first started coming to the Milwaukee Art Museum when I was a sixth grader, attending the Wisconsin Writes [ed. note: now called the Art of Writing] conference for middle school students. This is a school program for young authors and artists hosted by the Museum, and it was the first time that I set foot in Milwaukee. The conference was an opportunity to view the permanent art pieces in the galleries, and the goal was to be inspired by an individual piece of art and reminded of a personal story to write about. These stories would then be included in a compiled publication from all the students in attendance. It was a chance to form a connection with the art, and for me was one of the most memorable parts of my middle school career. I remember sitting upstairs among the Bradley Collection, waiting to decide which piece I would choose to write about while looking out at Lake Michigan, feeling a great sense of peace.