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American Art Behind the Scenes Collection

Who’s That Girl?: Wisconsin Edition

Nana Kennedy with Lester W. Bentley (American, 1908-1972). Nana, 1939. Oil on masonite. Milwaukee Art Museum, Loan to Layton from Milwaukee Public Museum.  Allocated to MPM by Federal Works Agency, Works Progress Administration. Photograph by Dick Kennedy
Nana Kennedy with Lester W. Bentley (American, 1908-1972). Nana, 1939. Oil on masonite. Milwaukee Art Museum, Loan to Layton from Milwaukee Public Museum. Allocated to MPM by Federal Works Agency, Works Progress Administration. Photograph by Dick Kennedy

Every so often, Museum staff gets an email or learns a story that connects the art in our collection with our community. These might be far-away communities, as in the case of the English ancestors of Miss Frances Lee, or it might be close by here in Milwaukee.

Nana Kennedy is the subject of this painting by Lester Bentley, entitled “Nana” (fitting!). Nana grew up in Two Rivers, WI, and so did artist Lester Bentley. Bentley was good friends with Nana’s parents, and completed this painting as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was a New Deal program to employ millions of workers and artisans during the American Great Depression.

After being separated for many years, Nana recently came to the Milwaukee Art Museum to visit her childhood portrait.