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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Questions of Provenance–Stories Behind the Names

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 third in a series of blog posts that will explore the provenance of selected artworks in the collection and how they came to be here.

Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (Dutch, 1824–1903), Low Tide at Zeeland, Scheveningen, ca. 1900. Oil on wood panel. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Samuel O. Buckner Collection M1919.28. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (Dutch, 1824–1903), Low Tide at Zeeland, Scheveningen, ca. 1900. Oil on wood panel. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Samuel O. Buckner Collection M1919.28. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

As we’ve explored in the past, in many ways the collection of any museum is the result of the interests of its donors. Here at the Milwaukee Art Museum, we have outstanding European decorative arts from the Renaissance and Baroque periods due to Richard and Erna Flagg. We can boast of one of the deepest collections of nineteenth century German art in the country because of the generosity of René von Schleinitz. And with the gift from Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley, we have a world-class collection of twentieth century art.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at a few of the local collectors of earlier generations that you probably don’t know. Their story is the story of Milwaukee.

And this is just the whirwind tour—some of these historical donors warrant a longer post in the future!

We will start with Samuel O. Buckner (1862–1945), who was instrumental to the art community of early twentieth century Milwaukee. Buckner is sometimes called “the father of the Milwaukee Art Institute,” since he was president of this predecessor institution of the Milwaukee Art Museum from 1910–1926. He even gave the Institute its first painting!