From the Collection–Miss Grace Ashburner by George Romney

George Romney (English, 1734–1802), Miss Grace Ashburner, 1792. Oil on canvas. 30 1/8 × 25 1/8 in. (76.52 × 63.82 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection Inc., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur N. McGeoch, Sr. L1941.9. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

George Romney (English, 1734–1802), Miss Grace Ashburner, 1792. Oil on canvas. 30 1/8 × 25 1/8 in. (76.52 × 63.82 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection Inc., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur N. McGeoch, Sr. L1941.9. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

What do you notice first about Miss Grace Ashburner? Maybe her porcelain-white skin highlighted by pink cheeks? Her fashionably powered hair decorated by a shiny blue ribbon? Or maybe her smart green coat with bright brass buttons?

This portrait of Grace, painted by fashionable English portraitist George Romney (1734-1802), shows her wistfully gazing off in the distance. In 1792, the year of the painting, Grace would have turned 18. She is certainly the epitome of a lovely young lady of late eighteenth century England.

Would it surprise you to learn that, just five years later, Grace was involved in a love triangle that resulted in a scandalous trial?

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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.

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From the Collection–Francisco de Zurbarán’s Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664), Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, has been popular with museum goers since it entered the collection in 1958. This is probably not surprising, since Zurbarán’s work is infused with a humanity that connects instantly with viewers.

Some of this power derives from the fact that Zurbarán based his painting style on traditional polychrome sculptures found in Spanish churches. Just like his better-known contemporary, Diego Velazquez (Spanish, 1599–1660), Zurbarán’s hyper-realistic paintings helped to inspire devotion in seventeenth-century Catholic Spain. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how Zurbarán inspired devotion not only in seventeenth-century Spain, but also how he does it today. Continue reading

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From the Collection– Preparations for the Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche by Diana Mantuana

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 Preparations for the Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche, an important recent acquisition by the Italian female engraver Diana Mantuana (ca. 1547–1612), who is sometimes referred to as Diana Scultori. 

Diana Mantuana (Italian, ca. 1547–1612), after Giulio Romano (Italian, probably 1499–1546). Preparations for the Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche, 1575. Engraving. Plate and sheet: 14 13/16 × 44 1/8 in. (37.62 × 112.08 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the DASS Fund M2013.34. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

Diana Mantuana (Italian, ca. 1547–1612), after Giulio Romano (Italian, probably 1499–1546). Preparations for the Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche, 1575. Engraving. Plate and sheet: 14 13/16 × 44 1/8 in. (37.62 × 112.08 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the DASS Fund M2013.34. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

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John Rieben’s Homage to Josef Müller-Brockmann

John Rieben (American, b. 1935), Chicago Has Two Great Zoos, 1965–1966. Photolithograph. 50 × 35 in. (127 × 88.9 cm). Lent by John Rieben.

John Rieben (American, b. 1935), Chicago Has Two Great Zoos, 1965–1966. Photolithograph. 50 × 35 in. (127 × 88.9 cm). Lent by John Rieben.

The exhibition currently on view in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Bradley Family Gallery (through June 25) is How Posters Work. On Thursday, April 6, 2017, the museum hosted a program in conjunction with the exhibition called Local Luminaries: Poster Provocation. This gallery tour welcomed luminaries from the Milwaukee area to share their unique perspectives about the works in the show.

 John Rieben, graphic designer and professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, could not be present for the program due to inclement weather. We are happy to share his thoughts below:

I would like to spend a few minutes talking about my design hero and inspiration, Josef Müller-Brockmann. I think the greatest of the poster makers were [Toulouse] Lautrec, Cassandre, and Müller-Brockmann. Müller-Brockman, however, was more than a poster maker. He was the leading protagonist of a new way of visual communication, which became a worldwide movement that affected virtually every designer in the profession and every commercial message. It became known as Swiss Design.

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