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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

MAM Celebrates 150 Years of Frank Lloyd Wright–Part Two: The Potential of Plywood

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959), Usonian Exhibition Dining Chair, 1953. Oak and plywood. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, in memory of Evelyn Brindis Demmer with funds from the the Demmer Charitable Trust, Jody Brindis Goisman & Dick Goisman, Dr. Charles Brindis & Debra L. Brindis, and Wayne & Kristine Lueders.
Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959), Usonian Exhibition Dining Chair, 1953. Oak and plywood. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, in memory of Evelyn Brindis Demmer with funds from the the Demmer Charitable Trust, Jody Brindis Goisman & Dick Goisman, Dr. Charles Brindis & Debra L. Brindis, and Wayne & Kristine Lueders.

Though world-renowned (and Wisconsin-born) architect Frank Lloyd Wright is perhaps best remembered for his work in the Prairie Style, this portion of his career was only the first chapter of a much longer story. And so, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Wright’s birth, the Milwaukee Art Museum is pleased to commemorate multiple aspects of his career—both early and late.

The exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: Buildings for the Prairie, on-view in the Bradley Family Galleries through October 15, 2017, explores work from the first part of his career, while his later achievements are represented by the acquisition of a Usonian Exhibition House Dining Chair—one of only two such objects that are still extant. The Milwaukee Art Museum is fortunate to have added this rare object to our permanent collection through the support of the Demmer Charitable Trust, Jody Brindis Goisman & Dick Goisman, Dr. Charles Brindis & Debra L. Brindis, and Wayne & Kristine Lueders, who have supported this acquisition in memory of Evelyn Brindis Demmer.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

MAM Celebrates 150 Years of Frank Lloyd Wright–Part One: Presenting Prairie Style

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). "Tree of Life" Window from the Darwin D. Martin House (Buffalo, New York), 1904. Glass with zinc cames. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Frederick Layton Art League in memory of Miss Charlotte Partridge and Miss Miriam Frink M1978.262. Photo credit: Richard Beauchamp. © Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). “Tree of Life” Window from the Darwin D. Martin House (Buffalo, New York), 1904. Glass with zinc cames. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Frederick Layton Art League in memory of Miss Charlotte Partridge and Miss Miriam Frink M1978.262. Photo credit: Richard Beauchamp. © Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

This year marks a whopping 150 years since the birth of world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

As institutions across the United States host specials exhibitions and events to mark the occasion, the Milwaukee Art Museum has particular reason to celebrate: although Wright has come to represent Midwestern and American architecture at large, he was born and spent much of his life in our own beloved state of Wisconsin.

Wright’s first home was the small farming community of Richland Center, Wisconsin, where he was born in 1867. Wright also spent most of his childhood in Wisconsin (his family relocated briefly to Massachusetts when he was nine), and he attended both high school and college in Madison.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

John J. Reiss: Artist, Designer, and Collector

John J. Reiss, photographed for Wisconsin Architect, January 1968
John J. Reiss, photographed for Wisconsin Architect, January 1968

Milwaukee has been home to many talented designers over the years, but they often fly under the radar. A designer’s main concern is to convey a message or idea on behalf of a client; one’s identity is secondary, but a talented designer finds a way to stand out.

John J. Reiss is one such designer. He was born in Milwaukee in 1922, and while he spent some time in New York, Milwaukee was ultimately where he made his home and his mark. As a design associate for the Milwaukee Art Center (now the Milwaukee Art Museum), he created many of the exhibition catalogues, invitations, and advertisements in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. However, he won recognition on a national and international level as well.

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Art Exhibitions

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.

Richard Earlom (English, 1743–1822), after Philip Reinagle (English, 1749–1833), The Superb Lily, published June 1, 1799. Color aquatint, etching, stipple, and mezzotint with hand coloring, varnished. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Pabst Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Starr III in memory of Mrs. Carl Eberbach M1973.100. Photog credit: John R. Glembin.
Richard Earlom (English, 1743–1822), after Philip Reinagle (English, 1749–1833), The Superb Lily, published June 1, 1799. Color aquatint, etching, stipple, and mezzotint with hand coloring, varnished. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Pabst Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Starr III in memory of Mrs. Carl Eberbach M1973.100. Photog credit: John R. Glembin.

Giving a bouquet of flowers to your sweetheart? You’d probably agree, that’s very romantic!

It makes sense, then, that the prints of flowers from the series known as The Temple of Flora would be Romantic, too, right? Well, kind of.

Notice that I wrote Romantic, with a capital “R”. What does that mean?

Romanticism is one of those “isms” that art historians like to use. These terms provide general information about the style and context of an artwork. They offer guidelines for further exploration. For example, in an earlier post, we learned about the style called Mannerism. Romanticism, like Mannerism, is more complicated than a single term suggests but provides a good starting point.

So, let’s take a closer look at The Temple of Flora and see how these flower prints are Romantic.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection: The Annuciation by Hendrick Goltzius

The current exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until July 30) is Alluring Artifice: Mannerism in the Sixteenth Century. The show features 30 prints that explore Mannerism, a movement that emerged in European art around 1510–20 and lasted until about 1600. Characterized by densely packed compositions and a focus on the human form, the style resulted in images that are deliberately challenging in both design and technique. One of the prints featured in the show is The Annunciation, an engraving by the Dutch master printmaker Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617).

Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617), The Annunciation, from the series The Life of the Virgin, 1594. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Graf M1980.233. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617), The Annunciation, from the series The Life of the Virgin, 1594. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Graf M1980.233. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

Over the years, people that I meet have asked me what I am working on, and I usually reply that I was reading a book on art history. At one point I said that to my mathematics teacher from high school. He turned his head quickly and said confidently, “Like about Da Vinci?”

“Yes,” I replied. “More or less.”

“Do you know what drives me nuts about those guys?”

“No, what drives a math teacher nuts about the Renaissance?”

“Why would anyone attempt to make art after the Renaissance?”

What he meant, of course, was that the Renaissance solved many of the technical difficulties of capturing reality in art. The artistic drive to find ways to show human anatomy, depth of space, and emotional expression had resulted in masterful paintings and sculpture.