American Art Collection Curatorial

From the Collection—Severin Roesen’s Still Life

Severin Roesen (American, born Germany, ca. 1815-1872).  Still Life.  ca. 1852.  Oil on canvas.  Milwaukee Art Museum, gift of Anita Vogel Hinrichs in memory of Ferdinand Hinrichs, M1988.133. Photo credit: Dedra Walls.

White grapes? Check.

Red grapes? Check.

Peeled lemon? Yep.

Champagne? Yep.

More flowers than a bouquet offered by an apologetic husband the day after he forgets an anniversary? Got those, too.

A bird’s nest with three tiny eggs? Wait a minute.  A bird’s nest?!?

The next time you visit the American Collections in the Museum’s Lower Level, take a look closely at Severin Roesen’s monumental still life of around 1852.  It’s full of all of the objects listed above, from the expected to the unexpected.

And it’s all part of a very elaborate tradition of painting—with unexpected twists—that served this nineteenth-century painter very, very well.

Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Rubens Peale “Apple and Two Pears on a Pewter Plate”

Rubens Peale (American, 1784–1865), Apple and Two Pears on a Pewter Plate, 1861. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, Layton Art Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin.

In the American Collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum is an example of the long-standing artistic tradition, the still life painting. Apple and Two Pears on a Pewter Plate (1861) by Rubens Peale, speaks both to the history of the still life genre and the Peale family’s American artistic dynasty.

Historical origins of the still life trace back to antiquity, but it was not until the Renaissance that still life painting rose and flourished as a distinct tradition, when painters throughout Europe explored the art of painting a carefully arranged assemblage of objects.