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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!

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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.

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Art Curatorial

Questions of Provenance: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Three Cuirassiers, Part 2

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901), Three Cuirassiers, 1879. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1977.149. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901), Three Cuirassiers, 1879. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley M1977.149. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

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

Last summer, we took a closer look at a little gem of a painting in the European collection: Three Cuirassiers by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901). It is a rare early oil painting by the great Post-Impressionist artist, done when Lautrec was only fourteen! So, how did the painting come to be in Wisconsin, at the Milwaukee Art Museum? Let’s take a closer look at the provenance trail.

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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Questions of Provenance: William and Gertrude Schuchardt

Installation of Corot, Daubigny, Miller: Visions of France. Photo credit: the author.
Installation of Corot, Daubigny, Miller: Visions of France. Photo credit: the author.

In the past, in posts related to provenance (or the history of an artwork, such as who has owned it and where it’s been), we’ve talked a little bit about credit lines.  Credit lines are the part of an object label that tells you how the Milwaukee Art Museum acquired that artwork.  The most common credit lines are gifts or bequests, but we also purchase artwork with funds given to us for that reason.

Today, I want to explore the story behind a more unusual credit line.

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Art Curatorial

Questions of Provenance—Doubting Thomas by Adriaen van der Werff, Part 2

Adriaen van der Werff (Dutch, 1659–1722). Self-portrait with the Portrait of his Wife, Margaretha van Rees, and their Daughter Maria, 1699. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, SK-A-465.
Adriaen van der Werff (Dutch, 1659–1722). Self-portrait with the Portrait of his Wife, Margaretha van Rees, and their Daughter Maria, 1699. Oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, SK-A-465.

In the first part of this post, using the Milwaukee Art Museum’s painting Doubting Thomas, we explored the biography and style of Dutch artist Adriaen van der Werff (a self-portrait of him from the Rijksmuseum is to the left).  This week, we’re going to trace the provenance of Doubting Thomas and see what it tells us about the history of taste in art and trends in collecting.

Van der Werff was one of the most famous painters of his day and was known internationally throughout his career. He was in demand in his earlier career for his rich portraits in the popular “Fine School” style. One example of his early work is the 1685 painting in the National Gallery, London called Portrait of a Man in a Quilted Gown.

Then in the 1690’s van der Werff’s paintings became more and more influenced by the classical style admired in France. He already had a tendency to use richer detail and elegant lines in his Fine School paintings. An important reason for this transition is the fact that the new style was preferred by patrons in the late Baroque period. If you want to make a living, you paint want people want to buy!