Categories
Art Curatorial Education

Listening to the Decorative Arts

Round Room video gallery, Milwaukee Art Museum's Lower Level Chipstone gallery.

As of late we at Chipstone have found ourselves discussing how the different senses affect our perception of decorative arts objects. For example, have you ever been asked to describe an object while blindfolded?

At our summer session for college undergrads, titled Object Lab, the students are required to do just that. It is amazing how “seeing” an object with our hands instead of our eyes, makes us drop the art historical jargon and really get into the essence of a piece. Although our conversation at Chipstone has centered around touch and how touching a piece of furniture or a ceramic object helps the viewer understand the object better than if he or she were just relying on sight, I’d like to explore how sound can add to an object’s experience and understanding.

Categories
Art Curatorial

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.