Thursday, June 11, 2015

Museum of Wisconsin Art

We didn't wake up with any particular plans on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend, but after mulling over our options for the beautiful day it was turning out to be, we decided to visit the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend and afterward stroll the picturesque river walk to enjoy the sunshine and warm breeze.

How I came to know about the Museum of Wisconsin Art is a story that began last fall when I visited my aunt to see a couple quilts that my great-grandmother had made. 

Tea Time by Carl von Marr
As I was leaving, I stopped in her entryway to admire a framed print of a serene Victorian table scene, a man and woman at tea.  My aunt didn't know anything about the picture except that she had always loved it and had come to own it after a relative passed away.  I made mental note of the name of the artist, Carl von Marr, and went home to see what I might find out via the internet.

Self-Portrait by Carl von Marr
Thus began a tumble down a rabbit hole, one that was entered innocently enough via the Google search box and ultimately exited 35 miles away at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, which happens to house the largest collection of von Marr's work.

I proceeded to file the information gleaned in that 20-minute research session into a not-well-curated portion of my brain.  Basically, I forgot about it for the next seven months.

"Funeral in Friesland" 1882

And so on that Saturday morning a couple weekends ago, it was Norm's idea to go to West Bend to do the river walk.  I'm all for walking, but that's kind of a long way to drive to take a walk.  So I turned to the internet to find out what else there was to do over that way and was thus reminded of the museum.  I'm glad Google has a better memory than mine.
Portrait of John Marr, the artist's father and a skilled engraver.
Bertha Marr, the artist's mother - who doesn't look like she forgets much!
Their eyes seemed to follow me as I shifted positions.
The most breathtaking of all von Marr's work on display was The Flagellants, a whopping 14 x 24 feet, occupying an entire wall almost floor to ceiling.  The painting took nearly five years and was completed in 1889.

"The Flagellants" 1889
It depicts a scene in 14th century Italy where, in an attempt to repel the Black Death, or plague, religious zealots roamed from city to city, whipping themselves bloody in a public display of penance.  What they did not know is that by attracting large crowds in the streets, they were more likely aiding the spread of the disease rather than effectuating a cure.

His use of light and shadow was very captivating.  Love the dappling of light on the ground that draws the eye to what is occurring in this scene.

There were many other artists on display as well.  Here are a few of my favorites.

This is a metal chest by artist Jim Rose.  It's one of the first things that caught my eye in the gallery and reminded me of a quilt.  I laughed when I read the name of the piece.  It's called "Stacked Bricks Quilt Sill Cupboard" and is of found painted and rusted steel. 

"Stacked Bricks Quilt Sill Cupboard" by Jim Rose, 2008
Click HERE to explore other colorful, quilt inspired pieces by Rose.  Breathtaking!

Chair Painting by Norwegian-born Per Lysne, 1929

"Leaving Shosone" by Richard Lorenz
This scene called "Leaving Shosone" reminded me of a Remington.  It is by artist Richard Lorenz (b. Germany, d. Milwaukee, Wis.), who is, as it turns out, considered one of the foremost painters of Western genre after Frederic Remington.

"Horse Market Midwinter" by Richard Lorenz, 1911
Finally, what would a Wisconsin museum be without taxidermy animals? 

"Up North Stele" by Gary John Gresl, 2002
Not to worry, that was covered, thanks to this three-dimensional, whimsical piece!


  1. Next time you go, Let me know! I am 10 minutes from West Bend (in Slinger). I've not been to the museum, though. Its on my list for the summer, particularly since the Milwaukee Art Museum is being renovated. Have you been to the quilt museum in Cedarburg?

  2. I love the way your brain works. From seeing a painting , to looking up the artist , to actually visiting a museum housing the actual artists works. Lovely eye candy in this post P. Thanks for taking us along on your trip.

  3. Oh my what a diverse and interesting museum Paulette!
    I love that cabinet by Jim Rose! And I did think the western art was Remington too.
    "The Flagellants" is incredible! What a window on a time in history that we can hardly relate too. Talk about art that takes you somewhere else and makes you think!
    You made me laugh to hard when you wrote that you filed the information gleaned in that 20-minute research session into a not-well-curated portion of my brain." I do that all the time!
    You aunt's "Tea Time" painting that started it all is wonderful! the couple looks like they enjoy being together. And Carl von Marr is quite a handsome man. Methinks a vintage sewing machine should me named von Marr.


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