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.


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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Remembering Dr. Alfred Bader

Bader in Office

Photo of Dr. Alfred Bader by David Bader Photography

There is never a good time to write about the loss of a friend. And though I knew him for only a short time, Dr. Alfred Bader was a friend to us all in the Milwaukee Art Museum family. News of his passing, on December 23, brought a weighted pause to the celebrations this past holiday season. Articles in the Journal Sentinel and Business Journal cover the biography and accomplishments of Dr. Bader—chemist, businessman, and philanthropist—a man who helped build Milwaukee’s industry and enrich its culture. It is as an avid collector and supporter of art that Dr. Bader will forever be honored at the Museum. First becoming a Member in 1952, he was instrumental to the Museum and, specifically, its European art collection. More than half a century later, his legacy includes the thirty exquisite works he gifted to the Museum and the endowment of the position of Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art—a post currently held by Tanya Paul. Dr. Bader once said that his passion for collecting “began with stamps at 8, drawings at 10, paintings at 20, and rare chemicals at 30.” Our experiences of Baroque art are richer for his inveterate collecting.

Dr. Bader made his first gifts to the Museum in 1961. The European art galleries on level one feature Govaert Flinck’s Portrait of a Man and Portrait of a Woman (1648), a pair of pendant portraits that Dr. Bader and his first wife, Helen Daniels Bader, donated in 1963. The adjacent galleries include other gifts, from the 1960s and 1970s, such as Gaetano Cusati’s luscious Still Life with Fish (ca. 1710) and Antiveduto Gramatica’s quietly moving Saint Dorothy (n.d.). More recently, in 1991, Dr. Bader and his wife, Isabel, gave intriguing works such as Adriaen van Nieulandt the Younger’s Orpheus (n.d.), which once formed the lid of a clavichord or harpsichord—as revealed by the exhibition they guest curated in 1989. In the past few years, the Baders have donated an additional group of paintings, including, in 2018, a Rembrandt School painting of Saint Bartholomew (17th century) that used to hang next to Dr. Bader’s chair in his home.


Adriaen van Nieulandt, the Younger (Dutch, 1587–1658), Orpheus, n.d. Oil on panel. Gift of Isabel and Alfred Bader, M1991.371. Photo by Efraim Lev-er.

The exhibition The Detective’s Eye: Investigating the Old Masters (1989), which featured van Nieulandt the Younger’s Orpheus, was one of two that Dr. Bader helped organize here at the Museum. That project, along with the first exhibition he guest curated, The Bible Through Dutch Eyes (1976), is a testament to Dr. Bader’s natural curiosity, his willingness to tirelessly research a challenging painting, and his belief in the fundamental importance of scholarship and connoisseurship. In addition to acting as a guest curator on these projects, Dr. Bader was always a generous lender to Museum exhibitions, from major enterprises such as Jan Lievens: A Dutch Master Rediscovered (2009), to smaller projects such as The Bloemaert Legacy (2014) and From Rembrandt to Parmigianino (2016).

“When I first arrived at the Museum, in 2013,” shares Tanya Paul, “I was honored to be the first Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Alfred was such a monumental figure in the field of Dutch art, and I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility in accepting the position. As my time in Milwaukee progressed, and I grew to know Alfred and Isabel better, they became like family to me, and welcomed me warmly into their home each time I came to visit. As a curator, I will miss his deep art historical knowledge, his ready opinions, and his bottomless curiosity about the art of the Dutch Republic. On a personal level, I will miss his insight, his humor, his gifts as a storyteller, and the kindness he always showed me. The community has suffered an inestimable loss with Alfred’s passing.”

Dr. Bader’s long involvement with the Museum is easily best remembered by Barbara Brown Lee, whose more than fifty-five years in the education department meant she often worked directly with him:

Dr. Bader was a name I’d heard bandied about when I first started at the Museum, in January of 1963. I later discovered that he gave wonderful lectures, and he, of course, loaned some of his works for display in the galleries. At that time, we didn’t have a lot of people that knew about the old masters he had in his collection, so Dr. Bader was our best resource. When he curated The Bible Through Dutch Eyes, in 1976, and The Detective’s Eye, in 1989, that’s when I had the chance to actually work with him, to finally get to know him. We worked around the clock, but we had so much fun, and I learned so much. I have very fond memories of working with him on those shows. Later, when he opened a gallery, he’d call me over there to see his newest finds and talked to me about them. He never tired of art history and the works. My life at the Museum through the years has only been enriched by listening to and learning from patrons like Dr. Bader.


Installation view of the exhibition The Detective’s Eye: Investigating the Old Masters (1989).

Dr. Bader clearly left an indelible impression on the Museum, its people, and the community. I know I speak for everyone at the Museum in wishing my heartfelt sympathies to his wife, Isabel, his children, David and Daniel, and his other loving relatives and dear friends.


Marcelle Polednik, PhD
Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director

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