Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European Library/Archives

A Painting, a Director, and the Mexican Film Industry

Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Purchase, M1958.70. Photo by John R. Glembin.
Man in brown hooded robe looking down at a skull in his hands
Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34 (detail). Oil on canvas. Purchase, M1958.70. Photo by John R. Glembin.

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.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

MAM Behind the Scenes: Heather Winter, Librarian/Archivist

Each day, hundreds of visitors enter the Milwaukee Art Museum to stare in awe at the incredible wealth of artworks within the museum’s collection. But what can too often go unrecognized is the equally awe-inspiring work of the many museum staff members, without whom the museum in its current state could not exist. “MAM Behind the Scenes” is a blog series written by Digital Learning intern Emma Fallone to showcase the wide range of positions that make up a museum, and to reveal just a few of of the many people whose work makes the Milwaukee Art Museum a source of inspiration and education. We begin with Heather Winter, Librarian and Archivist.

Can you give a brief description of your job, in thirty seconds or less?

A little bit of anything and everything. My responsibility is to take questions about the Museum’s collection and history, and then answer them with any number of materials from the library or the institutional archives. It’s my job to know where those materials are, and to use them to answer the questions quickly and accurately.

Categories
Art Library/Archives

A Museum’s History in Moving Image

Film still: View in to the Layton Art Gallery’s sculpture court, circa 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Film still: View in to the Layton Art Gallery’s sculpture court, circa 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

One of my favorite film gems in the Museum’s audio-visual archive is rare film footage of the institution’s changing location and architecture. This film–soundless, in black and white, circa 1957–features the Layton Art Gallery, the Milwaukee Art Institute, and the Eero Saarinen-designed War Memorial and Milwaukee Art Center building, into which the museum moved officially in 1957.

While the 15-minute film is rather grainy and hazy, the images are nevertheless a stunning peek into the last days of the Layton Art Gallery and the Milwaukee Art Institute in the early 1950s before their demolition, and the subsequent rise of the War Memorial building and the (then) Milwaukee Art Center. Excerpts from this film will be featured in our upcoming 125th Anniversary Exhibition, but if you’d like a sneak peek, read on.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

Frank Lloyd Wright in Color

Film still: Constructing the dormitory at Taliesin, early 1930s. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Film still: Constructing the dormitory at Taliesin, early 1930s. Milwaukee Art Museum,
Institutional Archives.
The museum’s archives contain a small but delightful collection of film and videotapes, detailing all sorts of subjects–from small films produced by the museum for various projects and exhibitions over the course of its history, to an odd yet enchanting assortment of documentary and artist-related footage.

But of all the film gems in the archive, my top favorites are two films of very rare footage of the internationally celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright which spans the 1930s into the early 1940s.  Both films were donated to the museum from the personal collection of Joan Salzstein.  She was the granddaughter of Dankmar Adler, one of the renowned architectural duo Adler & Sullivan, who changed Chicago’s skyline at the turn of the 20th century.  Wright worked for and studied under Adler, and his granddaughter Joan became a regular visitor to Wright’s home and farm at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, for many years.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

125 Years and Counting

"When Democracy Builds". Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. November 1945. Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 1.
“When Democracy Builds”. Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. November 1945. Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 1.
We owe it to the awakening interest in art matters
and the democratic spirit of the society,
which is attempting to make the gallery
a valuable asset to every citizen and
to inculcate an appreciation of its offerings.

–Samuel O. Buckner, President, Milwaukee Art Institute. “Art Gallery Rapidly Growing in Popularity.” Free Press, Dec 23, 1913

In 2013, the Milwaukee Art Museum will celebrate its 125th anniversary. Since 1888, the Museum has featured over 3,600 exhibitions, acquired 30,000+ objects, and published hundreds of exhibition and Collection catalogues. The Museum has been instrumental in setting national standards for excellence in art education, and has also erected visionary architecture. An exciting 125 years indeed!

Categories
Library/Archives

Kid Tested, Mother Approved

Sugar Specs box, 1958 Brooks Stevens Archive, Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Brooks Stevens Family and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
Sugar Specs box, 1958
Brooks Stevens Archive, Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Brooks Stevens Family and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
For the last three years, a portion of my time has been devoted to digitizing a treasure trove of imagery found in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Brooks Stevens Archive.

Stevens, one of the best known industrial designers of the twentieth century, lived and worked right here in Milwaukee, his hometown. While you may not automatically recognize his name, you most certainly will recognize his work: the Oscar-Meyer Weinermobile, Harley Davidson Hydra-glide motorcycle, the Valkyrie coupe sedan, and the round mouth Holsum peanut butter jar–just to name a few! Companies of all sizes, audiences and design needs flocked to Stevens and his firm for over five decades.

Categories
Art Library/Archives

Art Books are Fun, Now Go Play!

Vasarely: Plastic Arts of the 20th Century, Vol. II. Prefatory remarks by Marcel Joray. Translated from French by Haakon Chevalier. Design and layout by the Artist Victor Vasarely. Published in Switzerland: Éditions Du Griffon Neuchâtel, 1970. Gift to the Milwaukee Art Museum Library of Mr. Robert V. Krikorian
Vasarely: Plastic Arts of the 20th Century, Vol. II. (Full captions below)
One of the most fascinating (and fun) books in the Museum’s rare book collection is a set of books by the artist Victor Vasarely.

Vasarely’s four-volume set Plastic Arts (1970), which features numerous color plates, foldouts and loose plastic overlays, not only exemplifies his unique approach to art, but equips the viewer with a finite set of colors and forms to play with and manipulate.

See our combinations below.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

Milwaukee’s Greatest! … Circa 1892

William J. Anderson and Julius Bleyer. Milwaukee's great industries: a compilation of facts concerning Milwaukee's commercial and manufacturing enterprises, its trade and commerce, and the advantages it offers to manufacturers seeking desirable locations for new or established industries. Milwaukee: Association for the Advancement of Milwaukee, 1892. Gift to the Milwaukee Art Museum Library by Don M. Kaminsky (1941-2009).
William J. Anderson and Julius Bleyer. Milwaukee’s great industries: a compilation of facts concerning Milwaukee’s commercial and manufacturing enterprises, its trade and commerce, and the advantages it offers to manufacturers seeking desirable locations for new or established industries. Milwaukee: Association for the Advancement of Milwaukee, 1892. Gift to the Milwaukee Art Museum Library by Don M. Kaminsky (1941-2009).

Recently, I had the opportunity to open an interesting book in the Museum’s Library entitled Milwaukee’s Great Industries (1892). This 352-page tome features a history of Milwaukee, articles on its various industries, schools, churches, trades, a variety of advertisements, and a list of city facts entitled “Milwaukee in a Nutshell.”

Did you know that in 1892, Milwaukee produced $135 million in goods; had the biggest iron foundry in the world; or produced fully one-third of all the tin-ware used in the United States? And yes, Milwaukee officially had the largest brewery and tannery in the world!

Last but certainly not least–did you know that, in 1892, Milwaukee also had “one of the finest art galleries in the land, and several of the best private art collections in the world”?

You had me at “one of the finest in the land.”

Categories
Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

The Heady Appeal of Soap Sculpture Competitions

Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. January 1, 1931. Vol. 4, No. 5, Page 9
Milwaukee Art Institute Bulletin. January 1, 1931. Vol. 4, No. 5, Page 9
While browsing the Museum’s 120+ year history and its more than 3,500 exhibitions, patterns reflecting shifts in cultural taste, local craft, and major world events, are apparent.

History also reveals patterns that sidestep the obvious cultural or historical narrative to stand on their own. One such pattern appears in the series of soap sculpture competitions held at the Museum (known then as the Milwaukee Art Institute) from 1927-1940. At least fifteen national and local soap-sculpture competitions and exhibitions were held over a tirteen-year period.

How did soap sculpting become such a popular part of local and national practice so quickly? The answer, it turns out, was no further away than my own grocery list.

Categories
Library/Archives

Museum Art Library – Used Book Sale March 1 – 4!

Art books to be sold to benefit the Milwaukee Art Museum library acquisition fund. Photo by the author.
Art books to be sold to benefit the George Peckham Miller Art Research Library’s book acquisition fund. Photo by the author.

It’s book sale time again! At the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Art Research Library Used Book Sale, you’ll find wonderful materials that are either duplicative or outside of our Library’s collecting area. And, of course, all proceeds benefit the Art Library’s book acquisition fund.

During the first days of March, discover bound treasures, used books on art and art history-related subjects from the Museum’s George Peckham Miller Art Research Library as well as select sale gifts, home and fashion accessories from the Museum Store.

Whether you are on the lookout for books on the paintings of Pablo Picasso, the sculpture of Gaston Lachaise or the drawings of Georgia O’Keeffe, we have books on your favorite artists. And don’t pass up the catalog on the Louvre – we sell it cheaper than a round-trip flight to Paris!

Hope you can join us at this wonderful annual opportunity to let your shopping habits benefit the Museum’s Art Research Library!!