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Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection–English Monteith

George Garthorne (English), Monteith, 1688. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, Virginia Booth Vogel Acquisition Fund. Photo by John R. Glembin.

‘Tis the spirit! There are spirits of Christmas past, jolly good tidings and spirits of the season, and then my favorite type of holiday spirits: The beer, liquors, and wines that keep us jolly through office parties and family reunions.

In what started as a playful nod to seasonal parties, I thought I’d highlight a late 17th-century silver monteith in the Museum’s Collection. But what started as a jolly excuse to talk about wine consumption then and now soon turned dark, as often happens when you dig deeper into the layered meanings of cultural objects.

Categories
Art Curatorial Library/Archives

“How much is that Braque in the window?”

Mrs. Harry L. Bradley

In response to a recent research request, I stumbled upon a Milwaukee Journal article titled “How Much Is That Braque in the Window?” Who could resist a title like that? I had to read on.

The article, dated January 4, 1959, follows the fascinating Bradley family and their passion for collecting art—a passion that began in 1950 with their first purchase. While traveling in New York for business, Mrs. Harry L. Bradley recalled, “I was walking along 57th St. … and suddenly there was a painting in a window that, for the first time, I thought I might buy. … It turned out to be a Braque and the price was a shocker.” The Bradleys talked it over and decided to go ahead with the purchase. And so, a world-class art collection was born.

Categories
Art Curatorial

A Meal with Toussaint L’Ouverture

Possibly by the Sables Pottery (Medford, Massachusetts), Pitcher, ca. 1840-50. Stoneware with “Rockingham” style glaze. Chipstone Foundation.

It’s been an exciting few weeks for us at the Chipstone Foundation. First, I’d like to introduce Kate Smith, the newest member of the Chipstone team (welcome Kate!), who’s come all the way from England to study our collection.

A couple of weeks ago, we attended and participated in the American Ceramic Circle conference hosted at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Some of the highlights were: Luke Beckerdite’s (curator of Art in Clay) interesting talk on North Carolina earthenware; Rob Hunter’s (editor of Ceramics in America) entertaining and funny lecture on his top ten discoveries published in Ceramics in America; Mel Buchanan’s (Milwaukee Art Museum, assistant curator of 20th c. design) insight into Grete Marks’ ceramics; Ethan Lasser’s (Chipstone curator) new and innovative forms of curating; and Jon Prown (Chipstone’s director) lecture about a Toussaint L’Ouverture pitcher.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection— Neapolitan Crèche (Nativity Scene)

It’s that time of year again!  The Museum’s Neapolitan crèche is on view in the galleries for the holiday season. You’ll find it in Gallery 4 of the Collection Galleries, with European art.

The origin of the popular Christmas tradition of re-staging the Nativity scene is usually credited to Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223. The custom reached its artistic height in eighteenth-century Naples.  Nobles and aristocrats vied to outdo each other in presenting theatrical crèche (or presepio) displays with elaborate figures clothed in luxurious costumes.  In addition to the Holy Family, the scenes would include angels, putti, shepherds, the Magi, and a host of barnyard animals.  The most elaborate scenes would include daily life in Naples, such as the market, resulting in a lively scene mixing the sacred and the secular that could fill entire rooms. 

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection—Elderkin Great Chair

A treasure you’ll find at the Milwaukee Art Museum: One of the oldest known pieces of American furniture to survive. Let me say that again: At the Museum is one of the oldest known pieces of American furniture.

This dramatic chair was made sometime in the mid-1600s in Connecticut or Massachusetts. Of course, at the time of its construction, its maker would have identified himself and the style of this chair as English. And yes, three-legged chairs of this type were not uncommon in England, but on the faraway shores of New England, this Great Chair was a great novelty.

Categories
Art Curatorial

A Time When Modern Was “Degenerate”

This past weekend, I was proud to present a paper at the American Ceramic Circle’s annual symposium on an exhibition topic I’m developing. I spoke about a German designer named Grete Marks who made radical and beautiful ceramics—designs that the Nazi government called “degenerate.”

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection—George Mann Niedecken

George Niedecken’s reputation is that of a masterful Prairie School interior architect. However, because he worked as a collaborator to the master Prairie School architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, Niedecken’s legacy is often diminished. In addition to his famous collaborations on Wright’s Robie House (Chicago, Illinois) and Bogk House (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Niedecken was committed to new American styles for the twentieth century right here in Milwaukee. He studied the European Art Nouveau, Secessionist, and Arts and Crafts movements in Paris and Berlin, and applied these ideas to inspired designs for the living rooms of his Midwestern clients.

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Art Curatorial

My Favorite Portrait Miniatures

I can’t believe that we’re already at the last week of the exhibition Intimate Images of Love and Loss: Portrait Miniatures.  Once the show closes this Sunday, October 31, these incredible, tiny masterpieces go back into Museum storage.

In a world before photography, portrait miniatures were the wallet photographs or their day. Made to be held, worn, and hung on the wall of the home as a type of “family album,” the small-scale portraits afford us an extremely personal glimpse into the past.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Categories
Curatorial Library/Archives

Celebrating Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Monografía: Las Obras de José Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano. Authored by Frances Toor, Pablo O'Higgins, and Blas Vanegas Arroyo. Introduction by Diego Rivera. Publisher: México: Mexican Folkways, 1930. Gift of Philip Pinsof
Monografía: Las Obras de José Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano. Authored by Frances Toor, Pablo O'Higgins, and Blas Vanegas Arroyo. Introduction by Diego Rivera. Publisher: México: Mexican Folkways, 1930. Gift of Philip Pinsof

In honor of the upcoming celebration for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite rare books in the Museum’s Collection, the Monografía: Las Obras de José Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano.  This first edition monograph, published in 1930, includes 406 of the estimated 20,000 works cut by the illustrator and engraver José Guadalupe Posada (Mexican, 1851–1913).

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection—Bengtsson’s Slice Chair

Mathias Bengtsson (Danish, b. 1971) Slice Chair, 1999 Aluminum 29 1/2 x 35 x 29 in. (74.93 x 88.9 x 73.66 cm) Gift of Friends of Art M2011.11 Photo credit John R. Glembin © Mathias Bengtsson, Courtesy of Industry Gallery
Mathias Bengtsson (Danish, b. 1971), Slice Chair, 1999. Aluminum; 29 1/2 x 35 x 29 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art M2011.11. Photo credit John R. Glembin. © Mathias Bengtsson, Courtesy of Industry Gallery.

In honor of last week’s opening of European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century, I thought I’d share a bit about why the Museum has used this striking aluminum chair so heavily in the exhibition’s marketing.

You saw this chair’s curves on banners and the cover of the MAM Insider (the Museum’s Member magazine), all over the Museum’s exhibition website, and even on little details like admission vouchers.

As a lover of beautiful things, I’m drawn to the dazzling shimmer of the aluminum surface and the undulating form of this design.

As a curator who loves to talk about art, I’m also drawn to the ideas behind the chair. I feel like you could talk about this chair all day.