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.
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.
Nearly forty years ago, in 1981, a group of twelve Museum Members with an interest in prints and drawings established Print Forum. George Evans and Kent Anderson served as the group’s first president and vice-president, respectively. One of the Museum’s nine currently active support groups, Print Forum is among the longest standing.
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.
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.
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.
The artistic talent of Lois Mailou Jones (1905–1998) was recognized at an early age. She received a wide range of encouragement, including scholarships to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in her native Boston, and after graduating with honors, she assumed teaching was a likely next step. But, in what was the first of several rejections in an openly racist society, she was told to go south and help “her people.”