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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.

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Art Curatorial

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?

Details of Grace’s life come alive through some primary resources. The story first broke in a number of English newspapers in late June 1797. Notices appear all over the county, from Kent southeast of London, to Chester near Liverpool, to Norfolk on the east coast, to Staffordshire in the Midlands. It even made the newspapers in Ireland. Then, when the civil jury trial happened in September, more newspapers took up the story. There even exists a pamphlet that captures all of the details. It sold for twopence and had as its title:

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World, a New Installation: Part 2

View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.
View of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is currently featuring an installation that was developed by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students enrolled in the course “Curating Mrs. M.––––– ’s World.” The project resulted in the display of seven acquisitions by the Chipstone Foundation. The exhibition opened to the public on Sunday, December 18th and will run throughout the spring.

Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet is one of five galleries, located in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Constance and Dudley Godfrey American Wing, that are curated by the Chipstone Foundation. In the fall of 2016, Chipstone Curator and Director of Research Dr. Sarah Anne Carter taught a graduate seminar in museum studies in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Art History Department. The seven creative and up-and-coming student curators in this course researched and developed the innovative installations found in this exhibition in order to expand and enhance Mrs. M.––––– ’s mysterious story.

Each student was assigned an object to research and install in the cabinet as part of the museum studies course. Their challenge was to create an installation that fit in with the theme of Mrs. M.––––– ’s Cabinet: her desire to create a nuanced and complete history of America and its material cultures.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection–Andrea Locatelli’s Landscapes

A number of artists featured in the special exhibition Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums are represented in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum.  This is the second in a series of blog posts that will highlight Milwaukee’s paintings during the run of the exhibition.

Andrea Locatelli (Italian, 1695–1741), Landscape with a River and a Group of Figures Near A Roman Altar, ca. 1730. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Kyle, Sr. M1967.126. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Andrea Locatelli (Italian, 1695–1741), Landscape with a River and a Group of Figures Near A Roman Altar, ca. 1730. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Kyle, Sr. M1967.126. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

Imagine it is the early 18th century.  You are an Italian noble and need to decorate your villa.  Who do you hire to make some paintings for you?

For many, the answer would have been Andrea Locatelli (Italian, 1695-1741).  He’s not a household name today, but during his lifetime, Locatelli was famous.  The venerable Colonna family of Rome, who were great art patrons, owned 80 of his paintings!

The Milwaukee Art Museum has a lovely pair of paintings from Locatelli’s late career: Landscape with a River and Group of Figures Near A Roman Altar and Mountainous Landscape with Shepherds and Animals.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection–Antonio Balestra’s The Meeting of Telemachus and Calypso

A number of artists featured in the special exhibition Of Heaven and Earth: 500 Years of Italian Painting from Glasgow Museums are represented in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum.  This is the first in a series of blog posts that will highlight Milwaukee’s paintings during the run of the exhibition.

Antonio Balestra (Italian, 1666–1740), The Meeting of Telemachus and Calypso, ca. 1700. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Bequest of Eliza Eliot Fitch M1955.3. Photo credit: Larry Sanders.
Antonio Balestra (Italian, 1666–1740), The Meeting of Telemachus and Calypso, ca. 1700. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, bequest of Eliza Eliot Fitch M1955.3. Photo credit: Larry Sanders.

Active in the very end of the 17th century and the first part of the 18th century, Antonio Balestra was an Italian painter of the “late Baroque.”

What does that mean?  Well, it means that he worked during a time of transition between the theatrical narratives and dramatic light and shadow of the high Baroque (think Caravaggio) and the bright, elegant style called Rococo (think Tiepolo).

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection—Duyckinck’s Jacomina Winkler (and her crabby dog!)

Attributed to Gerardus Duyckinck I (American, 1695–1746), Portrait of Jacomina Winkler, ca. 1735. Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection, Purchase L1994.2. Photo by John R. Glembin.
Attributed to Gerardus Duyckinck I (American, 1695–1746), Portrait of Jacomina Winkler, ca. 1735. Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection, Purchase L1994.2. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Summer traditionally ends with dog days. You know those hot, listless, airless spans in August that have people dreaming of thunderstorms and cold fronts.

But why not begin summer with a thought about dogs?

This is not hard for me, as my life is ruled by two dogs (below you’ll find a picture of one of them, my alpha Westie, Alice).  Thus, this blog post combines two of my favorite things—portraiture and dogs—to take a closer look at a work of art in the Museum’s permanent collection.

Around 1735, the New York artist Gerardus Duyckinck I painted the portrait of young Jacomina Winkler, who was probably ten or twelve.  Jacomina’s father had been a merchant in the Dutch East Indies and had settled in Colonial New York, a place with long-standing ancestral Dutch colonial ties.

There is a lot to love in this portrait, from young Jacomina’s sweet expression to the hard-edged, linear quality of Duyckinck’s contour lines.  The folds in the red mantle (coat) that Miss Winkler wears are stiffer than beaten meringue peaks.

But what I love the best, of course, is the dog in her lap.  This is not just any old dog, but a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel…and a very unhappy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, at that.  You just know that this dog is the kind who’s going to snap at you if you try to pet it.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Neapolitan crèche (Nativity scene)

Naples Italy, Nativity Scene (Crèche), mid 1700s. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis. Photo by John R. Glembin.
Naples Italy, Nativity Scene (Crèche), mid 1700s. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

[Again for the 2011 holiday season, the Milwaukee Art Museum is thrilled to display the beloved Neopolitan crèche. Visit the Museum soon to enjoy this tradition with your family–the Nativity Scene will be on view through January 2012. Re-posted below is curator Catherine Sawinski’s 2010 blog post sharing the history of this artwork. ]

It’s that time of year again! The Museum’s Neapolitan crèche is on view in the galleries for the holiday season. You’ll find it in Gallery 4 of the Collection Galleries, with European art.

The origin of the popular Christmas tradition of re-staging the Nativity scene is usually credited to Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223. The custom reached its artistic height in eighteenth-century Naples, when the Museum’s version was made.

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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Girolamo Mengozzi’s “Architectural Fantasy with Figures”

M1982.37
Attributed Girolamo Mengozzi, Architectural Fantasy with Figures, ca. 1750. Oil on canvas34 3/8 x 28 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Laskin,M1982.37. Photo by P. Richard Eels.

I have always loved architecture. As a child, nothing excited me more than a big old Victorian farmhouse. Greek Revival, Carpenter Gothic, Second Empire, Queen Anne—I was probably one of the only Wisconsin middle-schoolers who knew the nuances of American house design and could read—and draw—a floor plan.

As an undergraduate, one of my majors was Classical Civilization, and my interest in architecture easily translated to ancient buildings. When I studied in Rome during my junior year and was able to see ruins that I had been studying in photographs, I was so excited.

I actually cried a little when I walked into the Pantheon for the first time!

Working in the European department at the Milwaukee Art Museum doesn’t allow me a lot of possibilities to directly study architecture, but I have found one way to explore it indirectly. Tucked away in the corner of the Italian Baroque gallery (Gallery #6) is a painting that most visitors probably miss. It is Architectural Fantasy with Figures attributed to Girolamo Mengozzi (Italian, ca. 1688–ca. 1766).

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Art Curatorial

From the Chipstone Collection—Staffordshire Teapots

Teapot, 1760/1780 Staffordshire, England  Earthenware (creamware) Photo by Gavin Ashworth
English (Staffordshire), Teapot, 1760/1780. Earthenware (creamware). Chipstone Foundation, 1963.21. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Chances are that you own a teapot. What does your teapot look like?

It’s probably globular in form and might have some decoration applied to it. The Museum has on view a variety of teapots, including two that I find very curious. Both teapots are found in the Loca Miraculi “Cabinet of Curiosities” installation in the Museum’s lower level. One teapot is in the shape of a pineapple, the other is in the shape of a cauliflower.

Both teapots are made from creamware, a white-ish variety of earthenware clay made famous by Josiah Wedgewood in the 18th century. At a time when the whiteness of porcelain was extremely valued by the public, finding a way to make the cheaper earthenware clay white was a big accomplishment. It thus accounts for creamware’s popularity.

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Art Curatorial

Refreshed Look for the American Paintings Galleries

American Paintings gallery, August 2011. Photo by Mel Buchanan.
Milwaukee Art Museum American Paintings gallery, August 2011 reinstallation. Photo by Mel Buchanan.

The newly reinstalled galleries in the Museum’s lower level offer a survey of the American paintings collections from the Colonial era to the turn of the 20th century.  The nearly fifty objects on view showcase not only a history of American art, but also the history of the Museum’s interest in American art.

Around half of the paintings on view are part of the Layton Art Collection, Milwaukee’s first public art gallery and our present-day Museum’s parent organization. The Layton Art Gallery was founded by meat packer and philanthropist Frederick Layton in 1888, and you’ll find Layton’s monumental 1893 portrait by Eastman Johnson still on view in the newly-installed American painting gallery.

The other half of the collections on view represents works acquired by the Museum as gifts and purchases, both before and after its 1957 merger with the Layton Art Gallery.

Old favorites remain, but there are many new additions pulled from Museum storage.