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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Questions of Provenance: Evening on the Seashore—Tangiers by Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s current feature exhibition, Milwaukee Collects, includes more than 100 objects from nearly 50 private collections in the Greater Milwaukee area. It offers an opportunity to see treasures that are typically not on public view. At the same time, it reminds us that the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection is part of a long tradition of collecting in the community. This is the second in a series of blog posts that will explore the provenance of selected artworks in the collection and how they came to be here.

Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant (French, 1845–1902), Evening on the Seashore—Tangiers, ca. 1891. Oil on canvas. 58 1/2 × 39 3/4 × 1 1/4 in. (148.59 × 100.97 × 3.18 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Marie K. Ingersoll and George L. Kuehn M1962.1158. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant (French, 1845–1902), Evening on the Seashore—Tangiers, ca. 1891. Oil on canvas. 58 1/2 × 39 3/4 × 1 1/4 in. (148.59 × 100.97 × 3.18 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Marie K. Ingersoll and George L. Kuehn M1962.1158. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

Evening on the Seashore—Tangiers is a highlight of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Orientalism gallery. Orientalism is a style in which the Near East is interpreted by western artists. This interest in the “exotic” was extremely popular in nineteenth century Europe and provided subject matter not just for paintings, but also decorative arts and interior decoration.

Even houses in small-town Wisconsin might have a “Turkish Corner” featuring a table, platter, and rug just like those found in the foreground of our painting. Just check out this one at the Hixon House in La Crosse!

The French painter Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant (1845–1902) found a ready clientele for his Orientalist works in late nineteenth century American collectors. The relaxed atmosphere, monumental figures, and Mediterranean setting of Evening on the Seashore-Tangiers would have been of particular interest to wealthy patrons who had large new homes to decorate.

One of those homes would have been the Pillsbury mansion of Milwaukee. The red-brick Queen Anne home stood at what is now 1626 N. Prospect Avenue. The house was razed in the 1960’s and to be replaced by the highrise apartment building known as Prospect Towers.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

MAM Behind-the-Scenes: Where Did They Go?

Academic Gallery with Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Academic Gallery with Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

There are some things in the Museum that are always changing—exhibition galleries, works on paper, portrait miniatures. But sometimes we make smaller changes to those galleries that seem to be “permanent”. For instance, every once in a while, individual artworks disappear from the walls and are replaced by others. Have you ever wondered why?

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at two different reasons that paintings in the European galleries have gone off view and learn a little about the things that replaced them.

First, let’s look at the Layton Art Collection’s fabulous painting Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. This monumental painting—it’s almost 7 feet tall!— usually hangs in the Academic Gallery, S200. It’s not on view right now because it is out on loan.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

MAM Behind-the-Scenes: Rotating the Collection

Gallery with Portrait Miniatures at Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: Tina Schinabeck.
Gallery with Portrait Miniatures at Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: Tina Schinabeck.

The Milwaukee Art Museum, like many other large museums, has so much art that it is impossible to display it all at once; there is just not enough space in the galleries.

Instead, the museum often rotates their installations, allowing the largest amount of objects to be displayed—just at different times. This also lets the curators to explore many different narratives using the permanent collection.

One such rotating installation is the display of portrait miniatures. Located in the gallery that contains most of the eighteenth-century European material, the portrait miniatures make a fascinating case study on just how the Milwaukee Art Museum goes about rotating artwork.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

From the Vault: Rubber Stamp Portfolio, 1977

Tom Wesselmann (American, 1931–2004), Shiny Nude, from the Rubber Stamp Portfolio, 1976, published 1977. Rubber stamp print, printed in color. Image: 5 7/8 × 5 11/16 in. (14.92 × 14.45 cm); sheet: 8 × 8 in. (20.32 × 20.32 cm). Gift of Virginia M. and J. Thomas Maher III M1994.263.1. © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Tom Wesselmann (American, 1931–2004), Shiny Nude, from the Rubber Stamp Portfolio, 1976, published 1977. Rubber stamp print, printed in color. Image: 5 7/8 × 5 11/16 in. (14.92 × 14.45 cm); sheet: 8 × 8 in. (20.32 × 20.32 cm). Gift of Virginia M. and J. Thomas Maher III M1994.263.1. © Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

As the Collections Manager of Works on Paper, one of my duties is to facilitate the movement of the prints, drawings and photography in the collection for exhibitions, rotations, loans and viewings for researchers in the Herzfeld Study Center.

Our works on paper storage vault is organized into logical, easy-to-use groupings by size, century, nationality and then by artist’s last name (OK; it’s highly organized).

While pulling a print to go on view in the galleries, I stumbled upon a print by Carl Andre from a portfolio that I have never worked with before.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center

Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center. Photo credit: John Glembin.
Herzfeld Photography, Print, and Drawing Study Center. Photo credit: John Glembin.

Did you know that nearly half of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection consists of works on paper? We have more than 15,000 rare prints, drawings, photographs, and book arts.

Works on paper cannot be shown indefinitely, because they are light-sensitive; light will cause them to fade.  Accordingly, in order to preserve them in the best condition possible, they are rotated.  A rotation is when one work is taken off view and replaced with another, usually every three to four months.

The Museum has a number of new spaces dedicated to works on paper.  The focus of these areas range from European prints and drawings (Gallery S202), to modern art from the Bradley Collection (Gallery K215), to Folk and Self-Taught art (Gallery K122). When not on view, those works on paper are stored safely in the dark.