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Art Curatorial

Out of the Vault–A Selection from Mr. Layton’s Gallery

Edward William Cooke (English, 1811–1880). The Pilot Boat (Trouville Fishing Boat in a Fresh Breeze), ca. 1839. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection, Gift of Frederick Layton. Photo credit John R. Glembin
Edward William Cooke (English, 1811–1880). The Pilot Boat (Trouville Fishing Boat in a Fresh Breeze), ca. 1839. Oil on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Layton Art Collection, Gift of Frederick Layton. Photo credit John R. Glembin

Last month we explored the history of the salon-hang style used in Gallery 10, which has been reopened as Mr. Layton’s Gallery.  A glance around tells a lot about what kind of art was popular in the late 19th century in America: sculpture is clean, white marble; paintings by European and American artists fit into easily described categories (landscape, genre, still-life), or they are inspired by the classical past.

There is nothing truly avant-garde here.  No Courbet, no Manet, no Monet, no Gauguin.  Most of this artwork stands firmly in the tradition of art as it was understood for centuries.  In fact, Homer and His Guide may even have been a direct rebuttal to the type of artwork shown at the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874.  Bougereau’s powerful painting reflects the survival of the classical, in both poetry and art, while facing adversity.

Although most of the beautiful objects from the early history of the Layton Art Collection are not ground-breaking, they are important to the time.  And many of them still show the influence of the artists leading the attack on the art establishment.

So let’s take a look at some of the paintings that have come “out of the vault!”