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.

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 Sawinkski’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.

Art Curatorial

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

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).

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.

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.