True or false: the Museum’s collection galleries always stay the same?
Periodically in the past, the blog has featured a series of posts called “Questions of Provenance,” which discussed issues related to provenance, or the history of ownership of a work of art. Over the next few months, this series will continue with posts highlighting recent research into works in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection. In case you missed it, the first one was published in January.
The last story I shared was about an accidental discovery related to the provenance of the painting Dance Under the Linden Tree (1881) by Ludwig Knaus. Today, I’m going to share a similar surprise discovery, about Wedding Procession in the Tyrol by Wilhelm Ludwig Friedrich Riefstahl (German, 1827–1888).
The Milwaukee Art Museum is excited to introduce Spotlight Sessions, a virtual series featuring an artist or local luminary interpreting or responding to an artwork in the collection. This series captures the unique perspective an artist brings to either their own or another’s work of art, broadening the experience of a painting, sculpture, or other selected work. Over the next three years, six local and visiting artists will be featured in this series. Viewers will have a range of opportunities to learn about and engage with Spotlight Sessions, including on the website, through social media, and at in-person events.
The Museum’s collection of more than 32,000 works of art spans from antiquity to the present and includes gifts and purchases dating from 1888 to today. There are the favorites that everyone looks forward to seeing with each visit, yet works come in and out and are frequently moved about. They rest (in the vault), travel to other institutions, and enter new social circles in the galleries, striking up new conversations. Each work of art has a “life” that makes the collection itself dynamic—one with many stories to share.
The curatorial staff of the Milwaukee Art Museum are constantly researching the collection. Sometimes we request books and articles through interlibrary loan. Other times, we page through archival files either in person or online. And it’s not unusual to talk to colleagues in the field. But believe it or not, every once in a while, an important discovery is made by accident.
I’m a book lover. Always have been, always will be. For me, the physicality of a book—the tactile qualities of holding it in my hands, the smell of the paper and ink, and the sound of turning the pages—it is part of a complete experience that I never want to give up. And I’m not the only one. Although e-readers have taken part of the book market, readers still prefer physical books and physical books outsell e-books.
I don’t own an e-reader, but I do a lot of reading on screens, usually on my computer. Compared to even ten years ago, an enormous amount of important scholarship for the art historian is on the internet. I still conduct good and thorough research using printed books, but it’s amazing what is available with a few taps of the keyboard.
This year, the Milwaukee Art Museum was pleased to work with artist and Milwaukee-area native Reginald Baylor for its annual Member mug. The mug features a detail of his painting On Duty, Not Driving, which is part of the Museum’s collection and currently on view.
I recently took the opportunity to ask Baylor a few questions, including some about the painting.
Although this year we cannot gather at the Museum to see the Neapolitan crèche in the European galleries, an annual tradition for many, it is still possible to appreciate the joy this special tableau brings.
Back in early 2018, Tanya Paul, Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art, proposed that the Museum again install its Nativity scene, or crèche, in the galleries for the holidays. The work, a visitor favorite, hadn’t been on view since 2013, because the setting for the Holy Family and other figures was worn and needed repair—such stage sets are often fragile constructions that require replacing. The Museum’s setting needed either to be restored or refabricated. The decision was made to make a new stage set, and a group of us, from the Conservation department and the preparatory staff, started to explore the possibilities.
Around this time each year the Museum places its beloved Neapolitan crèche in the galleries. But because the Museum is temporarily closed through the holiday season, we unfortunately can’t share the crèche with you in person. I invite you, however, to read on to learn more about it, and about the history of restaging the Nativity scene.