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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European Exhibitions Prints and Drawings

Early Printed Books: A Chance to Turn the Pages

Woodcut by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. Printed by Anton Koberger and Johannes Schoensperger, Two leaves from the book The Nuremberg Chronicle (Liber Chronicarum or Weltchronik), with a woodcut of a view of Bamberg, 1493 (detail). Woodcut and letterpress, Purchase, Gertrude Nunnemacher Schuchardt Fund, presented by William H. Schuchardt M1970.51. Photo by John R. Glembin.
Woodcut by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff. Printed by Anton Koberger and Johannes Schoensperger, Two leaves from the book The Nuremberg Chronicle (Liber Chronicarum or Weltchronik), with a woodcut of a view of Bamberg, 1493 (detail). Woodcut and letterpress, Purchase, Gertrude Nunnemacher Schuchardt Fund, presented by William H. Schuchardt M1970.51. Photo by John R. Glembin.

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.

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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

The Neapolitan Crèche: A Holiday Tradition

Woman holding a baby surrounded by people, angels, and goats
Naples, Italy, “Nativity Scene (Crèche)”, mid-18th century. Polychromed terracotta, painted wood, and fabric, on a later support. Dimensions variable. Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

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.

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Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

Crèche Redux: A Storyboard

Woman holding a baby surrounded by people, angels, and goats
Naples, Italy, “Nativity Scene (Crèche)”, mid-18th century. Polychromed terracotta, painted wood, and fabric, on a later support. Dimensions variable. Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

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.

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Art Collection Curatorial European

The Neapolitan Crèche

Woman holding a baby surrounded by people, angels, and goats
Naples, Italy, “Nativity Scene (Crèche)”, mid-18th century. Polychromed terracotta, painted wood, and fabric, on a later support. Dimensions variable. Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

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.

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European Library/Archives

A Painting, a Director, and the Mexican Film Industry

Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Purchase, M1958.70. Photo by John R. Glembin.
Man in brown hooded robe looking down at a skull in his hands
Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34 (detail). Oil on canvas. Purchase, M1958.70. Photo by John R. Glembin.

When I returned to the Milwaukee Art Museum after the state’s Safer at Home order, one of the first things I did was visit an old friend: Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb (1630/34) by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán. I’ve walked by the painting nearly every workday in my time at the Museum, but never have I been more appreciative of its quiet contemplativeness and the sense of stability it brings me. Indeed, the painting is such a fixture of the Museum that it is hard to imagine that it was ever not here, that it lived in three different countries, across two continents, before arriving in Milwaukee.

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Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection: Portrait of Henry VII of England

Probably after Meynnart Wewyck, Henry VII of England, 1504/09. Bequest of Catherine Jean Quirk, M1989.63. Photo by P. Richard Eells.
Man with medium-length hair wearing a black hat and a red and yellow robe
Probably after Meynnart Wewyck, Henry VII of England, 1504/09 (detail). Bequest of Catherine Jean Quirk, M1989.63. Photo by P. Richard Eells.

English history can appear to be a long list of kings and queens with the same names. The queen that most of us are familiar with today is Queen Elizabeth II. The first and only other Queen Elizabeth ruled from 1558 to 1603.

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Art Collection Education European Studio at Home

Kohl’s Art Studio at Home: Make Your Own Flower Still Life

It’s almost Mother’s Day! Give your mom, grandma, or any other special person in your life a flower bouquet that will last forever. This week, we’re making paper flowers inspired by the gorgeous blooms you can find in artworks throughout the Museum’s galleries. This is one of my favorite floral still lifes:

Jan van Os (Dutch, 1744–1808), Flowers in Terra-cotta Vase, after 1780. Oil on panel, 35 1/8 × 27 5/8 in. (89.22 × 70.17 cm). Layton Art Collection Inc., Gift of Frederick Layton L111 Photo by John R. Glembin

Let’s get started! Here are instructions for making two different kinds of paper flowers.

Must have:

  • Paper—of any kind (printer paper, pages from magazines/catalogues, or origami paper)
  • Scissors
  • Glue and/or tape

Optional:

  • Markers, colored pencils, pens, or anything else you can use to decorate paper
  • Wire, pipe cleaners, chopsticks, or anything else that can be made into stems
  • Tissue paper to make leaves
Categories
Art Collection Collection Reflection Curatorial European

Collection Reflection: Curator Tanya Paul on Jan van Os

A museum’s collection is, by its very nature, carefully organized, its objects categorized by geographic origin, medium, chronology, and other defining characteristics. However, works of art have many qualities that defy these traditional institutional divisions. Through a series of videos, we will examine these broader elements, seeking commonalities and new ways of connecting the works in the Museum’s collection. We invite you to join us as each curator focuses on a single work of art, exploring both that object and how the object speaks to the collection as a whole, as well as to the chosen theme in particular. 

In this first iteration, we examine the notion of still life as it has been treated in artwork across time.

We begin with an exploration of a traditional eighteenth-century Dutch flower piece and will build our connections from there.

Tanya Paul is the Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art. She oversees the research, exhibition, and acquisition of European art at the Museum, primarily focusing on material from the fourteenth century through the early twentieth century.

Categories
Art Collection European Exhibitions Prints and Drawings

From the Collection–The Temple of Flora

The current exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until December 3) is The Temple of Flora. The show features fifteen large-scale color prints from the illustrated book The Temple of Flora. They reflect the true passion of English doctor John Robert Thornton: botany. In honor of the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), Thornton hired eminent artists to produce the engravings, envisioning a series of seventy plates. The extreme cost of hiring top artists to create such labor-intensive prints, however, resulted in the creation of only thirty-three plates, which he released individually between 1799 and 1812. Learn more about what makes these prints so unique with today’s post.

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Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–Miss Grace Ashburner by George Romney

George Romney (English, 1734–1802), Miss Grace Ashburner, 1792. Oil on canvas. 30 1/8 × 25 1/8 in. (76.52 × 63.82 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection Inc., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur N. McGeoch, Sr. L1941.9. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
George Romney (English, 1734–1802), Miss Grace Ashburner, 1792. Oil on canvas. 30 1/8 × 25 1/8 in. (76.52 × 63.82 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection Inc., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur N. McGeoch, Sr. L1941.9. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

What do you notice first about Miss Grace Ashburner? Maybe her porcelain-white skin highlighted by pink cheeks? Her fashionably powered hair decorated by a shiny blue ribbon? Or maybe her smart green coat with bright brass buttons?

This portrait of Grace, painted by fashionable English portraitist George Romney (1734-1802), shows her wistfully gazing off in the distance. In 1792, the year of the painting, Grace would have turned 18. She is certainly the epitome of a lovely young lady of late eighteenth century England.

Would it surprise you to learn that, just five years later, Grace was involved in a love triangle that resulted in a scandalous trial?

Details of Grace’s life come alive through some primary resources. The story first broke in a number of English newspapers in late June 1797. Notices appear all over the county, from Kent southeast of London, to Chester near Liverpool, to Norfolk on the east coast, to Staffordshire in the Midlands. It even made the newspapers in Ireland. Then, when the civil jury trial happened in September, more newspapers took up the story. There even exists a pamphlet that captures all of the details. It sold for twopence and had as its title: