Categories
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:

Categories
Art Curatorial Exhibitions

From the Collection: The Annuciation by Hendrick Goltzius

The current exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until July 30) is Alluring Artifice: Mannerism in the Sixteenth Century. The show features 30 prints that explore Mannerism, a movement that emerged in European art around 1510–20 and lasted until about 1600. Characterized by densely packed compositions and a focus on the human form, the style resulted in images that are deliberately challenging in both design and technique. One of the prints featured in the show is The Annunciation, an engraving by the Dutch master printmaker Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617).

Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617), The Annunciation, from the series The Life of the Virgin, 1594. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Graf M1980.233. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617), The Annunciation, from the series The Life of the Virgin, 1594. Engraving. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Graf M1980.233. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

Over the years, people that I meet have asked me what I am working on, and I usually reply that I was reading a book on art history. At one point I said that to my mathematics teacher from high school. He turned his head quickly and said confidently, “Like about Da Vinci?”

“Yes,” I replied. “More or less.”

“Do you know what drives me nuts about those guys?”

“No, what drives a math teacher nuts about the Renaissance?”

“Why would anyone attempt to make art after the Renaissance?”

What he meant, of course, was that the Renaissance solved many of the technical difficulties of capturing reality in art. The artistic drive to find ways to show human anatomy, depth of space, and emotional expression had resulted in masterful paintings and sculpture.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Francisco de Zurbarán’s Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin
Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664). Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, 1630/34. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase. Photo credit John R. Glembin

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664), Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb, has been popular with museum goers since it entered the collection in 1958. This is probably not surprising, since Zurbarán’s work is infused with a humanity that connects instantly with viewers.

Some of this power derives from the fact that Zurbarán based his painting style on traditional polychrome sculptures found in Spanish churches. Just like his better-known contemporary, Diego Velazquez (Spanish, 1599–1660), Zurbarán’s hyper-realistic paintings helped to inspire devotion in seventeenth-century Catholic Spain. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how Zurbarán inspired devotion not only in seventeenth-century Spain, but also how he does it today.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Porcelain Tankards

Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710), Possibly Johann Gregorius Horoldt (German, 1696-1775), Tankard, ca. 1725. Glazed porcelain, polychrome overglaze decoration, gilding, and brass. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1995.2. Photo: John  Glembin
Meissen Porcelain Manufactory (Dresden, Germany, established 1710), Possibly Johann Gregorius Horoldt (German, 1696-1775), Tankard, ca. 1725. Glazed porcelain, polychrome overglaze decoration, gilding, and brass. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, M1995.2. Photo: John Glembin

[Last month, the Milwaukee Art Museum put on view three important Meissen tankards. Learn more about two of them with this re-posted entry from 2014.]

Previously, we demystified tin-glazed earthenware while putting it into a historical context. In this post, we’ll figure out the magic behind the material that tin-glazed earthenware attempted to fill in for: porcelain.

Introduced to Europe from China in the fourteenth century, porcelain was the most elegant and fascinating of materials. It was pristine, white yet translucent, and although it was thin and light-weight, it was also amazingly strong and durable. In other words, it was everything that tin-glazed earthenware and stoneware was not.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Character Steins

VEB Porzellanmanufactur Plaue (Plaue, Germany, established 1816). "Singing Pig" Stein, ca. 1900. Glazed hard paste porcelain, colored underglaze decoration, and pewter. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation M1962.984. Photo by Melissa Hartly Omholt.
VEB Porzellanmanufactur Plaue (Plaue, Germany, established 1816). “Singing Pig” Stein, ca. 1900. Glazed hard paste porcelain, colored underglaze decoration, and pewter. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation M1962.984. Photo by Melissa Hartly Omholt.

[Once a year, the Milwaukee Art Museum will rotate the German steins on view in the gallery of nineteenth century German art. The newest installation is a selection of character steins, so we’d like to highlight the change by re-posting this entry from 2015.]

Ready for some laughs? In this post, we’ll be looking at German steins meant to be amusing.

The industrial revolution of the nineteenth century meant that more goods could be produced quickly and more people could afford those goods. Developments in the technique for shaping ceramics meant that steins didn’t have to be a standard shape—they could be molded in all sorts of ways. And, in a never-ending quest for novelty, they were!