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Art Collection Reflection Curatorial

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.

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Art Curatorial

Peasants and Preservation: The Barbizon School Artists and the Struggle for Fontainebleau Forest

Jean-François Millet, The Shepherdess—large plate, 1862. Etching. Maurice and Esther Leah Ritz Collection, M2004.245. Photo by Efraim Lev-er.
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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

The Curators’ Game: Collection Rotation

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tasman Sea, Ngarupupu, 1990. Gelatin silver print. Purchase, Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation Acquisition Fund, M2001.154. Copy photo by John R. Glembin.

What happens when a group of curators following the Safer at Home order plays a game with works from the Museum’s collection? You’re about to find out.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection: An Illuminated Manuscript

French, Leaf from a Liturgical Psalter, early 14th century. Tempera, ink, and gold leaf on parchment. 6 3/8 × 4 7/16 in. (16.19 × 11.27 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Paula Uihlein M1932.108. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
French, Leaf from a Liturgical Psalter, early 14th century. Tempera, ink, and gold leaf on parchment. 6 3/8 × 4 7/16 in. (16.19 × 11.27 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Paula Uihlein M1932.108. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

Before the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, books were handwritten. Imagine… every time a copy of a text needed to be made, someone had to do it painstakingly by hand. In our world of quick reproductions and the ease of hitting “print”, this can be hard to believe!

The exhibition The Art of Devotion: Illuminated Manuscripts from Local Collections, on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum through June 16, 2019, aims to provide an introduction to these handwritten texts–called manuscripts–that were made in the middle ages and early Renaissance. A good number of those manuscripts are also illuminated, or decorated with gold, silver, and bright colors that make them literally look like they shine from within.

Ornamenting the Christian Bible and related texts reflected their holiness, as revealing the teachings of God. Monks and nuns would make the books in a scriptorium—or copying room—as a type of religious devotion. By the fourteenth century, commercial scriptoriums fulfilled the demand for books made by the aristocrats and nobles who commissioned them not only to use in private devotion but also to display their great wealth. As you can imagine, this leads to amazing and beautiful books!

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Art Curatorial

20th-Century Tools for Measuring Time and Bodies

Isamu Noguchi for Measured Time, Inc., Clock and Kitchen Timer, ca. 1932. Bakelite, metal, glass, and painted metal. Gift from the George R. Kravis II Collection M2018.246. Photo: Sotheby’s, © Sotheby’s, Inc. 2016, © 2017 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Isamu Noguchi for Measured Time, Inc., Clock and Kitchen Timer, ca. 1932. Bakelite, metal, glass, and painted metal. Gift from the George R. Kravis II Collection M2018.246. Photo: Sotheby’s, © Sotheby’s, Inc. 2016, © 2017 The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Clocks, calculators, measuring tapes, and scales—tools for measurement and calculation have long been important for people to accomplish tasks at work, school, and home. A new display in the 20th- and 21st-Century Design Galleries considers the role designers played in shaping such devices in the twentieth century, with examples from the 1920s-1980s. On one hand, these objects demonstrate how many designers aimed to make tools that are simple to use and easy to read, such as the streamlined kitchen clock and timer that Isamu Noguchi designed for Measured Time, Inc. in the early 1930s. At the same time, these designs bring to light how measurement and calculation have been closely linked to the human body in the twentieth century, as this post explores.

Though the practice of timekeeping extends back thousands of years, new strategies of labor management emerged in the early twentieth century that placed particular emphasis on keeping track of time and bodies in tandem. In the United States, labor theorists Frederick Taylor and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth introduced and popularized methods of scientific management. In particular, they used time and motion studies to first evaluate workers’ behavior, and then modify it for maximum efficiency. [1] The Gilbreths developed the chronocyclograph, which used small electric lights attached to workers’ bodies to produce images of tasks being accomplished over time. The idea was that through such studies, inefficient ways of working could be identified and replaced with standard practices that would increase productivity at work and at home. [2]