Wisconsin Women Artists Featured at Milwaukee Public Library

In 2016, the Milwaukee Art Museum partnered with Milwaukee Public Library to present Wisconsin Women Artists, an exhibition of paintings on view through September 2019 in the Central Library Art Gallery.

From cultural leaders to art educators, women have played a pivotal role in the development of the arts in the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. This selection of paintings by Wisconsin women artists spans more than one hundred years and highlights the breadth of their artistic contributions and output, from early realist landscapes and portraits, to abstract and modernist canvases.

Below are just a few of the works featured in the exhibition—stop by the library to see them all!

Susan Cressy’s Birds of Passage

Susan Cressy, Birds of Passage, probably 19211922. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of A Friend. M1922.21.

Anna Louisa Miller’s October Storm of 1949

Anna Louisa Miller, October Storm of 1949, ca. 1949. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Zadok. M1951.5.

Ruth Grotenrath’s Sleeping Girl

Ruth Grotenrath, Sleeping Girl, ca. 1935. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase M1935.4. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Ruth Grotenrath’s Untitled

Ruth Grotenrath, Untitled, 1963. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Schomer Lichtner Trust and Kohler Foundation, Inc. M2008.193. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Wisconsin Women Artists is curated by Brandon Ruud, Abert Family Curator of American Art.

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Women in Design

Female designers: shattering the glass ceiling, while creating glass masterpieces (among other innovative objects)

Though not often recognized as prominently as their male counterparts, female designers have had a significant impact on the world of design, using their creativity and inventiveness to push boundaries and marry the concepts of beauty and practicality. Read below to learn about some of the inspiring female designers featured in the Museum’s Design Galleries.

Marion Mahony Griffin was one of the first women to graduate with a degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She later worked as a chief designer for Frank Lloyd Wright for 14 years, not only making substantial contributions to Wright’s projects, but also receiving her own commissions.


Marion Mahony Griffin (American, 1871–1962). Window, from the Gerald Mahony Residence, Elkhart, Indiana  1907. Gift of family and friends in memory of Pamela Jacobs Keegan, architect M1984.14

Margarete Heymann-Löbenstein-Marks (known as Grete Marks) attended three semesters at the Bauhaus, the renowned German art, design, and architecture school, before leaving to establish her own ceramic manufactory. There, she created some of her best-known pieces, like the teapot pictured below.


Designed by Margarete Heymann-Löbenstein-Marks (German, 1899–1990), Manufactured by Haël Werkstätten (Marwitz, Germany, 1923–1934), Teapot, ca. 1930. Purchase, by exchange M2011.17.1a,b. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

Margaret De Patta developed an interest in metalwork in the mid-1930s, after struggling to find a well-designed wedding ring for her first marriage. Though she became very influential in the American jewelry movement, some of her earliest work includes the flatware pictured below.


Margaret De Patta (American, 1903–1964), Place Setting, 1936. Purchase, with funds from the Edward U. Demmer Foundation M2014.74.1–.4. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

Born in Budapest, Eva Zeisel studied ceramics at the Hungarian Royal Academy of Fine Arts and apprenticed at a local porcelain factory, later becoming the first woman admitted to the local pottery guild. She is now well-known for her beautifully playful, yet practical, tableware designs, including some in innovative materials like acrylic resin plastic seen below.


Eva Zeisel (American, b. Hungary, 1906–2011), Manufactured by Clover Box and Manufacturing Company (Bronx, New York, active mid-20th century), Cloverleaf Bowl, from the Cloverware series, 1947. Purchase, with funds from the Demmer Charitable Trust M2017.54. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

Elsa Tennhardt was one of the earliest female industrial designers in the United States. Working in the 1920s, Tennhardt was clearly influenced by Cubism, as shown by the geometric quality and triangular forms that make up the cocktail set she designed, pictured below. The set was featured in a 1928 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, but it did not credit Tennhardt.


Elsa Tennhardt (American, b. Germany, 1889–1980), Manufactured by E. and J. Bass Company (New York, New York, ca. 1890–1930), Cocktail Set, ca. 1928. Purchase, with funds from Demmer Charitable Trust M2015.69.1a-.8. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

Maija Grotell was a Finnish ceramicist who taught at the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1938-1966. Her pottery is simple in form, but often features decorative carvings or colorful, complex glazes on the exterior. One of her vases (pictured below) will be on display in the upcoming exhibition, Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980, opening May 15, 2020.


Maija Grotell (American, b. Finland, 1899–1973), Vase, ca. 1950. Purchase, with funds from the Edward U. Demmer Foundation, in memory of Cheryl Robertson, Curator of Decorative Arts at the Milwaukee Art Museum, 1979–1981 and 1993–1996 M2013.41. Photo credit: John R. Glembin

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Can You Name Five Women Artists?

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Milwaukee Art Museum is joining the National Museum of Women in the Arts in their effort to address the persisting gender imbalance in the art world and highlight more women artists. Though kicking off in March, these efforts will extend far beyond a single month, with special programming focused on female artists all year.

Through the #5WomenArtists campaign, the Museum has pledged to:

  • Organize an exhibition around the work of a woman artist
  • Acquire a new artwork by a woman artist for the Collection
  • Highlight more women artists on social media throughout the year.

So, how are we fulfilling this pledge?

Sara Cwynar: Image Model Muse

In her first solo U.S. exhibition, Cwynar offers feminist perspectives on consumer culture, and reveals the ways in which commercial objects can stand in for larger systems of power. The exhibition, on view between March 8–August 4, 2019, in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, features three of the artist’s most recent films and a series of related photographs.


Sara Cwynar, Tracy (Cezanne), 2017. Dye sublimation print on aluminum mounted on Dibond, 43 x 54 in. Courtesy of the artist, Cooper Cole, Toronto, Foxy Production, New York. © Sara Cwynar

Recent Acquisitions

The Museum recently acquired Woman Crying #18 by Anne Collier. You can see it on view in the Contemporary Art Galleries.


Anne Collier, Woman Crying #18, 2018. Purchase, with funds in memory of Betty Croasdaile and John E. Julien. Photo by
Lisa Sutcliffe.

In the past year, the Museum acquired works by many female artists, including Margery Austen Ryerson, Betty Gold, Deana Lawson, Howardena Pindell, and Alessandra Sanguinetti.

#5WomenArtists

Follow the Milwaukee Art Museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and look for our posts with #5WomenArtists. We will be sharing artworks made by women artists from our Collection, along with facts about the artists’ careers, artistic styles, and personal lives, this month and beyond.

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Celebrate Women Artists at the Museum

Who run the [art] world? Historically, men. But, despite an enduring lack of public recognition and acclaim, our Collection shows that women artists have helped shape the art world throughout time, using their talents to not only reflect the world around them, but also challenge conventions, make bold statements, and speak to the female experience.

Below are just a few of the works by women artists currently on view. Stop by the Museum to see them in person, in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian, 1532–1625), The Artist’s Sister Minerva Anguissola, ca. 1564. Layton Art Collection Inc., Gift of the family of Mrs. Frederick Vogel Jr. L1952.1. Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Gabriele Münter (German, 1877–1962), Girl with Doll, 1908–09. Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1966.165. Photo credit: Efraim Lev-er. ©2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986), Series I—No. 3, 1918. Gift of Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation M1997.192. Photo credit: Larry Sanders. © Milwaukee Art Museum
Helen Frankenthaler (American, 1928–2011), Hotel Cro-Magnon, 1958. Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1966.153. © 2010 Helen Frankenthaler / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Eva Hesse (American, b. Germany, 1936–1970), Right After, 1969. Gift of Friends of Art M1970.27. Photo credit: Larry Sanders. © The Estate of Eva Hesse. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Agnes Martin (American, b. Canada, 1912–2004), Untitled #10, 1977. Gift of Friends of Art M1981.6. Photo credit: Efraim Lev-er. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Kiki Smith (American, b. Germany, 1954), Honeywax, 1995. Gift of the Contemporary Art Society M1996.5. Photo credit: PaceWildenstein Gallery. © Kiki Smith, courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York
Sylvia Levine (English, 1911–1998), Untitled, 1986. Gift of Anthony Petullo M2012.125. Photo credit: Larry Sanders
Sylvette David (French, b. 1934, active in England), The Mermaid, n.d. Gift of Anthony Petullo M2012.25. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. © Lydia Corbett
Beth Lipman (American, b. 1971), Laid Table (Still Life with Metal Pitcher), 2007. Purchase, Jill and Jack Pelisek Endowment, Jack Pelisek Funds, and various donors by exchange M2009.48. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. © Beth Lipman
Michelle Grabner (American, b. 1962), Untitled, 2007. Purchase, Doerfler Fund M2008.74. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. © Michelle Grabner
Lois Mailou Jones (American, 1905–1998), The Ascent of Ethiopia, 1932. Purchase, African American Art Acquisition Fund, matching funds from Suzanne and Richard Pieper, with additional support from Arthur and Dorothy Nelle Sanders M1993.191. Photo credit: John R. Glembin. © Lois Mailou Jones Pierre-Noel Trust


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Book donation drive through March 10

Donate books.

In conjunction with the exhibition The San Quentin Project, The Milwaukee Art Museum is collecting books for the incarcerated people in our community. The book drive continues through March 10, 2019, through the run of the exhibition The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor
and the Men of San Quentin State Prison.

Books most needed:

  • LGBTQ nonfiction and fiction
  • Dictionaries (English)
  • Almanacs
  • How-tos on drawing and art making
  • Books in Spanish for native speakers
  • African American, Latinx, and Native American history or nonfiction
  • Contemporary fiction (especially urban fiction, crime fiction, and thrillers)
  • Mythology and alternative spirituality
  • Recent editions of textbooks

Books should be free of markings, in new or used condition. Softcover books
are preferred, but we are able to distribute hardcover books to institutions
that allow them.

Books can be donated in Windhover Hall at collection points near the admissions desks at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Thank you for your contributions.

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