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Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Wisconsin Crazy Quilt

Margaret A. Beattie (American, b. ca. 1860), Crazy Quilt, 1883. Silk floss, silk chenille, metallic yarn, and oil paint on silk and silk velvet; 76 x 64 1/2 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from Marion Wolfe, Mrs. Helen L. Pfeifer and Friends of Art, M1997.58. Photo by Larry Sanders.
Margaret A. Beattie (American, b. ca. 1860), Crazy Quilt, 1883. Silk floss, silk chenille, metallic yarn, and oil paint on silk and silk velvet; 76 x 64 1/2 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from Marion Wolfe, Mrs. Helen L. Pfeifer and Friends of Art, M1997.58. Photo by Larry Sanders.

My grandmother made about a dozen quilts in her lifetime and having them around so much as a kid, I sort of took them for granted.

Before I worked at the Museum as an intern, I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum’s exhibition American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection in the summer of 2010. As many exhibitions of material culture tend to do, the display gave me a new appreciation for artforms that had surrounded me my whole life. I saw my grandmother’s craft in a new way, and as someone who just a few years ago mastered sewing on a button, the awe I feel for the craftsmanship is possibly only outdone by the respect I feel for the artistry of quilt making.

Quilting for America’s earliest settlers was first and foremost a practical endeavor.  A time consuming but necessary task, scraps of  worn-out clothing and bits of fabric were reused to create bedding.  By the late nineteenth century, quilts existed in many styles, some of which were purely decorative, meant for display in the parlor or front room.

One such type was the “crazy quilt,” as seen in this spectacular example from the Milwaukee Art Museum’s permanent collection.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From the Collection–Cyril Colnik Iron Basket

Cyril Colnik (American, b. Austria, 1871–1958), Hanging Basket, ca. 1900. Iron, glass; 35 x 8 x 8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from the American Arts Society M2012.299a–d.
Cyril Colnik (American, b. Austria, 1871–1958), Hanging Basket, ca. 1900. Detail. Iron, glass; 35 x 8 x 8 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase, with funds from the American Arts Society M2012.299a–d. Photo by the author.

Though the Museum’s mission is to present, in our official lingo, “four floors of over forty galleries of art with works from antiquity to the present,” I’m probably not alone among curators in getting most excited when we acquire and exhibit world-class artwork made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This year, I was thrilled to work with our Museum’s support group dedicated to American fine and decorative arts (the American Arts Society, or AAS) to bring to the Museum’s Collection a fantastic iron hanging basket that was designed, made, and kept in Milwaukee.

While operating The Ornamental Iron Shop for over 60 years in Milwaukee, master iron artisan Cyril Colnik (American, b. Austria, 1871–1958) moved with changing fashions of his posh clientele in the finest homes of this city.

It you see stunning ironwork in Milwaukee, it’s probably by Colnik. To walk on the East Side, or along Lake Drive, is to enjoy a veritable open air Colnik museum.

And now, thanks to the American Arts Society, his artwork is also within the galleries of the Museum!