October is the kick-off to the autumn art season in Milwaukee, beginning with Fall Gallery Night and Day on Oct. 19 and 20, during which galleries and art institutions are hosting a wide variety of lively exhibitions. For more information on Gallery Night and Day, go to www.historicthirdward.org/events/gallerynight.php.
Kiki Smith, “Litter,” 1999, four-color lithograph with platinum gilding, 24 by 30
Dean Jensen Gallery will be celebrating its silver anniversary with “25 for 25” and include artists known both locally and internationally, such as Kiki Smith.
Francesco Spicuzza, “Lake Scene,” oil painting on board, 9 1/2 by 7 1/2
Celebrate the spirit of early 19th century Parisian artists at DeLind Gallery of Fine Art with “Plein Air Then and Now.” Featuring early American impressionist and plein air paintings and drawings and outstanding paintings by “spirited” Wisconsin plein air artists, including Francesco Spicuzza.
Eric Aho, “Ice House, Second Summer II,” oil on linen, 22 by 24
Vermont artist Eric Aho returns to Tory Folliard Gallery in a solo show of expressive new paintings in the main gallery. Laura Dronzek is showing intimate landscapes and floral still lifes in the East Gallery.
John Himmelfarb, “Extra, Extra,” print
The Peltz Gallery hosts a solo show of paintings, drawings and prints by John Himmelfarb, who is know for his invented calligraphy.
David Schafer, “Fall Splendor,” oil on canvas, 30 by 40
Katie Gingrass Gallery’s Green Exhibition features work that is inspired by nature or created from found objects/recycled materials. A portion of gallery sales will be donated to the Urban Ecology Center.
Betsy Benes, “Hand Blocked and Dyed,” egg tempera 24 by 30
The egg tempura by Betsy Benes is included in the Elaine Erickson Gallery exhibition of paintings by Betsy Benes and C.W. Peckenpaugh. There are many artist studios and galleries also located in the Marshall Building.
Bernard Roberts, “Totem,” bronze, 39 by 19 by 11
The Gallery at Vanguard Sculpture Services continues its comprehensive Bernard Roberts exhibit “Out of the Forest Into the Fire” of wood and bronze sculpture. Visit Saturday’s Gallery Day to see a bronze pour in the foundry.
Thomas Gainsborough. “Mary, Countess Howe, ca. 1764,” oil on canvas, 95 by 61, Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88029039). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts
The Milwaukee Art Museum’s “Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House” feature 48 masterpieces from Lord Iveagh’s collection. Work by some of the greatest European artists of the 17th through 19th centuries are included.
MIAD reopens the Brook Stevens Gallery with “Designing Desire: The Cultural Effects of Marketing,” which explores the effects of marketing messages on the products through a creative display of vintage ads and objects. Wander the corridors, and you will also see work from the permanent collection of the Layton School of Art and contemporary art by MIAD students, alumni and faculty.
“Thenceforward, and Forever Free” at the Haggerty Museum of Art features seven contemporary artists whose work deals with issues of race, gender, privilege and identity, and more broadly conveys interpretations of the notion of freedom in the show. This exhibition is part of Marquette University’s Freedom Project, a year-long commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
Josiah Wedgwood, “Medallion,” circa 1800, Stoneware D. 1 1/8, Collection of the Chipstone Foundation
Also at the Haggerty: “The Freedom Project: Text/Context” an exhibition by the Chipstone Foundation of small objects that are linked to the concept of human freedom.
Dîa de los Muertos, 2011
October 2012 marks 20 years of Walker’s Point Center for the Arts celebrating Dîa de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This traditional celebration will include a touch of contemporary flavor with ofrendas (altars/offerings) created by local artists of various backgrounds, in addition to sculpture and 2-D work related to the holiday.
Narendra Patel, Marie-Therese, cast bronze
Cardinal Stritch is hosting “Beyond Vision Tactile Exhibit” at the university’s Northwestern Mutual Art Gallery. It includes an array of 3-D work meant to be touched. Works will be featured in both the gallery and sculpture garden.
A visual feast awaits artists and art collectors at the contemporary art fair, Expo Chicago. Debuting this year from Sept. 20 to 23 at the historic Navy Pier, this international exposition of modern/contemporary art and design is more than just a stuffy art fair — it is a premier art event designed to show what the city of Chicago can offer on the creative world stage.
One hundred galleries from around the globe will have their best art on exhibit for the many collectors, curators and art lovers expected to attend. Twenty younger galleries, including Milwaukee’s Green Gallery, will be featured in the EXPOSURE section and IN/SITU will showcase large-scale installations, site-specific and performance works by select international artists throughout Navy Pier. A highly anticipated interior environment in the soaring hall will be created by the renowned Studio Gang Architects of Chicago. For the foodies, the city’s top chefs will show off their culinary skills in the Chef’s Cafe.
If that is not enough to get your attention, consider that more than 40 cultural groups and institutions partnering with the expo to present special events and programming. Highlights include Gordon Matta-Clark’s Celebrated “Garbage Wall” gracing the Chicago River and Jessica Stockholder’s amazing “Color Jam,” a 3-D painting that covers the streets, buildings and crosswalks surrounding State and Adams. The School of the Art Institute is offering a series of thought-provoking daily events with leading arts professionals discussing the current issues that engage them. A hands-on art program at the Chicago Children’s Museum (also at Navy Pier) completes the art activities for the younger set.
For first dibs, consider attending “Vernissage,” the opening night preview party benefiting the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Fortunately, art enthusiasts do not need to be art scene insiders to take advantage of all Expo Chicago has to offer. Their informative website, expochicago.com, has a complete list of the exhibitors and events for this ambitious art happening, located just 90 miles away.
Art lovers and history buffs are fortunate that Milwaukee boasts several museums that not only feature permanent collections of art and objects but also showcase the work of contemporary Wisconsin artists. One such jewel is the Charles Allis Art Museum. Elegantly located on the East Side and overlooking Lake Michigan, this remarkable 1911 Tudor style mansion was designed by the prominent Milwaukee architect Alexander Eschweiler for industrialist Charles Allis and his wife, Sarah. The generous couple built an outstanding mansion to display their objets d’art and bequeathed the intact collection to the public to “delight, inspire and educate.”
And what a delight it is to visit this architectural treasure. Permanent collections of 19th century French and American paintings, Chinese and Japanese porcelains, Renaissance bronzes, Japanese netsuke are arranged among the original antique furnishings in the Allis’ parlors, bedrooms and elegant marble hallways. The beautiful chandeliers, leaded glass windows, rare wallpaper and carved woodwork provide a stunning atmosphere.
Those with a taste for more recent styles will appreciate the current art exhibition “Our Gardens Inside and Out.” Featuring the work of more than 70 contemporary Wisconsin artists, the show includes a wide array of styles and media. Intriguing bronzes, subtle watercolors, delicate porcelains, bold oil paintings and carved stone sculptures by Wisconsin artists of all ages fill several rooms on two floors. Literal depictions of flowers, insects and garden vistas, as well as abstract interpretations, are on view. Outdoor sculptures grace the English Garden — and wandering through the museum and grounds to view the diverse selection is an adventure.
“Our Gardens Inside and Out” is on now through Oct. 7. Check www.charlesallis.org for other special events, including the popular “Movie Time” classic film series presented by historian Dale Kuntz and shown on 16 millimeter reel-to-reel film every other Wednesday evening through mid-September. The Charles Allis Museum is located at 1801 N. Prospect Ave. and open from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Summer is a great time to get out and explore. Before visiting another city, I like to ask artists for recommendations on the local art scene. Recently, UW-Madison painting professor Derrick Buisch took some time out from the studio to suggest some “not to miss Madison art moments,” many of which are located downtown and within walking distance of each other.
The Chazen Museum of Art (www.chazen.wisc.edu) on the campus of the UW-Madison has a collection of more than 19,000 works of art spanning the entire spectrum of art history. Through Aug. 5, “Spark and Flame: 50 years of Art Glass and University of Wisconsin-Madison,” tells the story of Harvey Littleton’s impact on the studio art glass movement through 160 works borrowed from pre-eminent collections. This exhibit is beautifully installed in the new wing of this important institution and is an informative feast for the eyes.
The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (mmoca.org), located in the Overture Center for the Arts, has a great collection of Chicago Imagist art as well as works by many famous contemporary artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Chuck Close, Sol LeWitt, George Segal, Jim Dine, Rodney Graham, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claes Oldenburg, Ursula von Rydingsvard and John Wilde.
The big summer show at MMOCA is “One Must Know Animals,” an intriguing exhibit exploring man’s relationship with the animal kingdom. Animals in art go back to cave paintings, but this show includes work by contemporary artists in a variety of media from the museum’s extensive collection. Also on exhibit: “Cecilia Condit: Within a Stone’s Throw,” a video and photo exhibit exploring perceptions of reality, scale and nature in Ireland’s Burren coastline.
The James Watrous Gallery (www.wisconsinacademy.org/category/tags/james-watrous-gallery), located on the third floor of the Overture Center for the Arts, focuses on contemporary Wisconsin artists. On view from July 6 through Aug. 19 is “Entrances,” an exhibition by one of my favorite painters, Lon Michels. Besides his signature figurative paintings, Michels is showing a new series of painted bridesmaid dresses that are a “must see.”
The Overture Center for the Arts is a work of art by itself. Designed by the world-famous architect Cesar Pelli, it is a gorgeous building that integrates theaters, galleries and performance and meeting spaces.
The Memorial Union (www.union.wisc.edu) is worth visiting for the architecture alone, but there are three galleries within. You have until July 17 to see the provocative shows “Voces” with Mandy Cano Villalobos in the Porter Butts Gallery; “Traveler’s Cup” by Joo Yeon Woo in the Class of 1925 Gallery; and “All That Remains” by Jennifer Nelson in the Lakefront on Langdon Gallery.
The UW-Madison Art Department (art.wisc.edu) has the Art Lofts Gallery in its new building, the seventh floor gallery in the Humanities Building and the HiLo Gallery, but save that visit for the fall. Summer is a quiet time on campus and there is not much is scheduled for July.
The Madison Children’s Museum (www.madisonchildrensmuseum.org) is an award-winning space with diverse and creative spaces designed to delight the whole family. Located on Madison’s Capitol Square, the museum highlights include interactive water exhibits, hands-on projects in the Art Studio, and ecological education in the four seasons Roof Top Ramble. Local art is integrated in the exhibits and finding the art is an entertaining treasure hunt.
All of the above venues have supporting programs including artist talks, films and other special events. Visit the websites for complete details and see great art this summer!
Lon Michels is larger than life. At 6-feet 6-inches tall and 260 pounds, he is hard to miss. Always dressed to the nines, with a penchant for furs and big jewelry, you become aware of his presence when he enters a room. It’s not just his size, but the positive energy he exudes.
At age 50, Michels celebrates a lifelong career of painting with a gallery exhibition in Milwaukee. His show, “Life Lived Large,” includes paintings, sculpture and painted furs. Michels enjoys national recognition for his unique style of painting, using bold colors with repeating intricate patterns. Michels paints from life and captures the essence of each subject. Every inch of canvas comes alive with his joy.
Born in Marquette, Michels’ mother was an artist and his father a fifth-generation stone mason. As a young child, his mother encouraged him to paint by throwing flowers on the floor and having him paint them. His favorite activity was filling up coloring books. Fascinated with the black line, Michels knew at an early age that it was OK to color outside it.
After completing his bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Ripon College, Michels moved to New York City in the 1980s, where he modeled for Calvin Klein — an experience that still dictates his extravagant fashion sense. He was also the studio assistant to the international sculptor, Louise Nevelson, and the grid structure of her work can be seen in Michels’ large-scale paintings.
Seeking warmer weather, Michels moved to Key West in the 1990s, where he developed his own style of painting and became a local TV host. After suffering an infection in his optic nerve, Michels was blinded for nearly two years, but continued to paint with the help of an assistant. Through specialized treatment, Michels regained his sight and continued his artistic pursuits by returning to school and receiving a master of fine arts degree from UW-Madison.
Michels now makes his home and studio in Lodi. His studio overlooks the magnificent Baraboo mountain range close to Lake Wisconsin, where he draws constant inspiration.
For several years, Michels has been working on his monumental masterpiece, “The Last Supper,” an 8-foot-by-12-foot contemporary interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. Michels traveled to Jerusalem to research religion and spirituality for this ambitious work. The painting’s process and Michels’ life is the subject of the film, “The Last Supper,” created by Todd Olson, which premiers at the Next Act Theatre on June 2.
“If you are given a gift, it’s your responsibility to share it with the world,” Michels says. Finding beauty everywhere, whether painting a portrait, landscape or still life, his intense research, dedication and unique vision make for exceptional art. Michels paints to live and lives to paint, with a gratitude that overflows.
“Life Lived Large,” the painting and sculpture of Lon Michels, will be on exhibit at the Tory Folliard Gallery June 2-30. From July 6-Aug. 19, Michels’ paintings will be on view at the James Watrous Gallery at Madison’s Overture Center. A portion of the artwork sales will be donated to the Aids Resource Center and After Breast Cancer Diagnosis.
CREO, the Latin word “to create,” is a fitting name for the artistic program offered by Mount Mary College. Incorporating fashion, art and design, CREO will be held at the Hyatt Hotel in Milwaukee on May 11. This is the second year the popular annual event will be held off campus, and the first year that students from the fashion department will be joined by fine art, graphic design and interior design seniors. Attendees are in for a treat.
“Evoke” is this year’s theme and reflects the sophisticated and fresh vibe of this special event. In the grand ballroom, the fashion department will “evoke style” with three runway shows showcasing cutting-edge couture by young designers. Students from the Fashion Show Coordination class will coordinate every aspect of the runway show, from developing a theme and working with the graphic design department on designing an invitation and program for the event, to staging, lighting, choosing music, writing commentary and working with local retailers to acquire appropriate accessories. More than 100 original garments designed by sophomores, juniors and seniors, will be modeled, with hair and makeup artfully affixed by local salon specialists. “It’s a professionally produced show that gives the students and audience a real runway experience,” says Sandi Keiser, associate professor in fashion. “The show will be an extravaganza of creativity!”
A free gallery exhibit, open to the public, will take place in the Hyatt’s atrium. The fine art department will “evoke locality” through traditional and conceptual art pieces. Mount Mary’s mission to support social justice is woven into its curriculum and the art and design departments are no exception. Students from the interior design department recently designed and refurbished rooms for Lissy’s Place, a haven for homeless women. Sample boards and photos will be on display highlighting sustainability and “upcycled” furniture items. Students in the graphic design department will “evoke awareness” with their visual messages. Comprehensive portfolio work of original concepts for nonprofit clients will be shown. Studio 455, a student-run organization that has faculty and alumnae members, will be exhibiting a wide range of work in many media, including examples of baby quilts for Sojourner Family Peace Center made during their campus wide “Knit-a-Thon” project.
The May 11 event at the Hyatt runs from noon to 10 p.m., with runway shows at 1:30, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Tickets for the fashion shows may be purchased at www.creo-event.com or by calling Mount Mary College at (414) 256-1210. The art exhibits are free and open to the public.
As an art lover I am fascinated with the process of making art. One of the oldest and most labor-intensive methods is the bronze sculpture casting process. Fortunately in Milwaukee we have a wonderful foundry, Vanguard Sculpture Services, which specialize in fine art bronze casting and is open to the public.
Founded in 1996 by a group of sculptors, Vanguard Sculpture Services is Wisconsin’s only fine art bronze foundry, making everything from custom architectural hardware to large-scale sculpture. Housed in an expansive art deco industrial building in Milwaukee’s 30th Street Industrial Corridor, it is an ideal setting for sculpture casting and fabrication. The interior is bathed in natural light from the large clerestory windows above, and an abundance of beautiful plants provide a pleasant working environment. Owners Beth Sahagian and Michael Nolte oversee the foundry operations and employ a staff of skillful artists.
As a medium, bronze is valued for its strength, malleability and propensity to hold details. Since the fourth millennium B.C., sculpture, tools, weapons, building materials and countless other items have been made with this versatile metal. It is also an ideal medium for sculptors who want to make their work in multiples.
To cast a sculpture in bronze, the client needs only to provide a drawing, photograph or sculpture, if available. Artists employed by Vanguard translate the idea into a sculpture model. Once approved by the client, a mold is formed and a casting is made using the lost wax process. Molten bronze is poured into the mold and cools. A master metal finisher welds the bronze pieces and grinds the seams for a flawless surface. Lastly, a patina of chemicals is applied for the desired finish. According to Sahagian, “preserving the artist’s intent and facilitating their vision is the ultimate goal.”
Notable commissions at Vanguard include a monumental gorilla family by Mike Mooney for the Milwaukee County Zoo; Beth Sahagian’s Acqua Grylli for the Milwaukee Riverwalk; the Harry Whitehorse Effigy Tree for the Goodman Community Center in Madison; Jill Sebastian’s screens at the UW-Madison Student Union; and life-size Rev. Joseph Kentenich sculptures for the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.
In addition to casting, Vanguard cleans and maintains bronzes around the state. Recent projects include the sculptures on the roof of MSOE’s Grohmann Museum, Miller Park and the Milwaukee Riverwalk.
Vanguard recently opened an exhibition gallery that features the bronze sculpture by 20 artists who cast at the foundry. A future show will include Bernard Roberts, a prolific Wisconsin sculptor and Vanguard client who recently passed away.
Bronze pours take place weekly and are open to the public by appointment. Foundry tours are also available by calling (414) 444-5508. Visit the website to see more pictures of projects and the casting process at www.vanguardsculptureservices.com.
The Haggerty Museum of Art on the campus of Marquette University continues its rich tradition of art education by simultaneously presenting two very different exhibitions, “The Europeans,” photographs by Tina Barney, and “Inevitable Finality,” the Gemini G.E.L. Prints of Philip Guston. On exhibit through May 20, the shows contrast sharply in style and character and illustrate an artist’s singular vision.
Painter, Phillip Guston (1913-1980), began his career as an Abstract Expressionist in New York in the 1940s. During the turmoil of the 1960s he abandoned abstraction for a cartoon style of realism that characterized his work for the rest of his career. Guston is a hero to many contemporary artists for his original, off-beat style.
The Gemini G.E.L. prints completed in 1980 were Guston’s first endeavor with lithography. Working with a master printer, Guston drew directly onto the printing element and used blunt cartoon shapes to express his personal iconography. Common items such as shoes are fraught with intense movement and the prints are strong and expressive, capturing the essence of his drawings. Twenty-five lithographs with photographs documenting the process are included in the exhibit.
Tina Barney (b. 1945), an American photographer known for her large-scale portraits, offers a sharp contrast to the Guston prints. Her rich and intricate photographs of Europeans are studies in pattern and color, but cool and distanced. Barney’s 2005 book, “The Europeans,” documents her trips to Austria, England, Italy, Spain, France and Germany during an eight-year period. Invited into the homes of the rich and privileged, her portraits are arranged meetings between strangers. Using a large format, she captures her European subjects in intricate backgrounds comprised of tapestries, architectural elements and priceless objets d’art. Although we are seeing an exclusive, private world, we are no closer to knowing the dwellers of these historic interiors.
The Haggerty of Museum of Art is a hidden treasure on the Marquette University campus. Frequent exhibitions highlight artists of a national and international importance, and wonderful lectures and programs accompany these exhibits. Admission and programs are free. Located on 13th and Clybourn streets, the museum offers free parking in the lot behind Eckelstein Hall (entrance at 12th Street, south of Wisconsin Avenue). For more details, visit Haggerty Museum of Art.
Drawing inside the lines of a coloring book was not an option for Marion Coffey’s young children. She encouraged them to color outside the lines and not be confined by preconceived boundaries. According to her daughter, Coffey lived her life this way each day.
Wisconsin’s beloved artist, Marion Coffey, passed away in December at the age of 87. Throughout her long career, Coffey celebrated the beauty in everything she painted. She found joy in capturing the flowers in her garden, the interiors of her daughter’s home and the gorgeous vistas from her travels. It took many years of keen observation and experimenting to arrive at the bold, expressive style that characterizes her painting. Her style was her own — daring in color and young in spirit.
Born in Milwaukee, Coffey studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Fontainebleau School of Art in France. Early in her career she worked as a commercial illustrator. Influenced by the 19th and 20th century French artists, Vlaminck, Matisse and the Fauves, Coffey became less interested in realistic depictions and began painting with vibrant colors and expressive brush strokes. During the last two decades she developed a composition of large interlocking shapes reminiscent of one her favorite painters, Gabriele Münter, the 20th century German artist.
Tiny drawings filled her sketch book and were the foundation of her art. Coffey painted in all sizes but favored large scale. She sketched constantly during her travels bringing back many ideas for future work. Coffey enjoyed working on handmade paper, which added depth and texture to the painting surface. A prolific artist, she produced hundreds of paintings and prints.
In recent years, Coffey’s art focused on her travels to the British Isles, South of France, Spain, Tuscany, Kenya and Tanzania, and her hometown, Milwaukee. Her fans were many, and the gallery shows sold out quickly.
Coffey’s paintings take us on a colorful journey, capturing the essence of her subject, whether it is a vase of flowers, the brilliant patterns of African warrior robes, or the Milwaukee skyline. Working until the day she died, Coffey’s art embodies a spirit that remains forever young.
Tory Folliard, owner of Tory Folliard Gallery located in the Historic Third Ward, represented Marion Coffey for the last 20 years.
For those interested in a winter art expedition — or for those who just like catching up with old friends — Gallery Night and Day on January 20 & 21 is the perfect time to do both. It is a social event for art aficionados of all ages and types, from serious collectors to novices, artists, families, hipsters, students and the curious. It is a great opportunity to get acquainted with Milwaukee’s diverse art scene in a variety of neighborhoods, including Walker’s Point, the historic Third Ward, East Town and points farther north.
Gallery Night and Day is a citywide event in which participants exhibit art and invite the public to visit during a two-day period. The event is free to the public and held quarterly (January, April, July and October). The Historic Third Ward Association, which administers Gallery Night and Day, publishes a free brochure in advance as well as a website with participants, parking and transportation information. In January, expect to see more than 40 venues, including art galleries, museums, universities, hotels, community centers, churches, boutiques, salons and restaurants, as well as dozens of ‘unofficial” venues participating in the event.
Since there are many venues, deciding where to visit can be a difficult choice. To find established art galleries with a roster of well-known artists, visit the Milwaukee Art Dealers Association galleries. Comprised of 12 commercial and nonprofit galleries, the shows are often planned a year in advance and feature some of their best artists. Usually the artists are in attendance, and there is plenty of quality art available for purchase. Be sure to visit the MADA’s nonprofit venues such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, Walkers Point Center for the Arts, Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Cardinal Stritch University and the Haggerty Museum of Art, all of which mount ambitious exhibits that are generally educational. After Gallery Night and Day, the MADA galleries’ exhibitions continue, so be sure to go back for another visit without the crowds.
If your interest is emerging artists, try the Hide House in Bay View and the Marshall Building in the Third Ward, where you will find small galleries and artists’ studios. The artist criteria for shows at these venues vary by location, and the exhibits may be temporary. Other venues to consider are the Green Gallery on Farwell Avenue for conceptual art and the Sky High Gallery in Bay View for contemporary crafts.
The Third Ward, East Town and Bay View have the greatest concentration of art venues and restaurants. Since January weather can be challenging, it may be a good idea to narrow your choices to one neighborhood at a time. For those who have seen it all, check out the annual “Sculptures on Ice” in Catalano Square in the Third Ward, where sculptors shape blocks of ice according to a theme.
Gallery Night (Friday) is great for people-watching and Gallery Day (Saturday) is a wonderful time to actually get close to the art and have a conversation with the gallery owners in a less crowed situation. Refreshments are not normally served by the participants, so consider making dinner reservations in advance.
No matter what your taste in art, Gallery Night and Day has something interesting to offer. Bundle up and venture out for this very social art happening.
Tory Folliard is the owner of Tory Folliard Gallery located in the Historic Third Ward. Established in 1988, the gallery features contemporary art by regional and national artists. Folliard is the co-president of the Milwaukee Art Dealers Association.
I spend a lot of time looking at art — a great perk of owning a gallery. Adding to this joy is seeing the occasional extraordinary exhibition. Fortunately for all of us, it is in town at the Milwaukee Art Museum, titled “Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper.”
This stunning show includes 125 drawings, pastels and watercolors by some of the greatest artists in Western art. Viewing the immediacy of the marks on paper lends an intimate air and fresh look at work by legendary artists. This exhibition breaks new ground in demonstrating the importance of works on paper to the Impressionist and Post Impressionist movements in late 19th century France.
Chronologically laid out, with exceptional examples by famous and lesser-known artists, the show illustrates the birth and progression of Impressionism and provides a context to the people and places of the time.
With the simplest of pencil lines and watercolor washes, Eugène Boudin, Monet’s mentor, perfectly captures the interaction of fashionable 1860s bourgeoisie enjoying good weather on the Normandy coast. Jean-Louis Forain’s “The Client” graphically turns the classical theme of “The Judgment of Paris” upside down by depicting prostitutes in feather boas, striped knee socks and high heels parading before an intently scrutinizing man dressed in a suit. Edgar Degas defies conventions with “Woman in a Tub” with a keyhole view of a woman bathing. Custom-mixed pastels in complementary colors and a special fixative made it possible for Degas to build dozens of layers of bold strokes. His influence can be seen in the aggressive mark-making of Mary Cassatt and Federico Zandomeneghi. Moonlight and movement are expressed in Georges-Pierre Seurat’s “Place de la Concorde” through his daring subtraction of color and velvety textures. The show includes innovative works by Van Gogh and Gauguin, artists not shown before at the museum. Hinting of Modernism to come, the exhibition closes with Toulouse-Lautrec’s portraits and Cézanne’s minimalist landscapes.
With museums and collectors reluctant to loan fragile works on paper, this show becomes even more significant. Light level exposure must be minimized, and works on paper — especially pastels — are sensitive to vibrations, making travel difficult and dangerous. Many works in this show have never been on regular display, but housed safely in flat files under conservation conditions. As a result, they look as vibrant today as when created more than 125 years ago.
Four years in the making, this ambitious exhibition was organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum in partnership with the Albertina in Vienna. Curators Laurie Winters, director of exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Christopher Lloyd, British art historian, assembled this superb collection of Impressionist works on paper by the art superstars of the time. More than 40 institutions from all over the word lent works to this exhibition. Milwaukee is the only U.S. venue. After Jan. 8, the exhibition travels to the Albertina in Vienna. For information, go to www.mam.org.
Tory Folliard is the owner of Tory Folliard Gallery located in the Historic Third Ward. Established in 1988, the gallery features contemporary art by regional and national artists. Folliard is the co-president of the Milwaukee Art Dealers Association.