West Bend Art Museum

West Bend, WI

(414) 334-9638

Early Wisconsin Collection Being Unveiled

Elk in Yellowstone Park, John Fery, oil on canvas, ca. 1910, 23 1/4 x 31 inches

West Bend Art Museum Collection

The West Bend Art Museum has quietly gone about collecting, preserving and documenting the early art of Wisconsin for almost a decade. Now, almost ten years later the art museum is poised to unveil its collection during the state's sesquicentennial year. Beginning in February 1998, the museum's entire lower level exhibition space will be used to display this collection which spans a time frame from Euro-American settlement to 1950.

Richard Lorenz, Horse Market Midwinter

The collection includes paintings, drawings, graphics, sculptures, photographs, sketch books, models and video displays. The art museum's earliest works which will go on display are five hand-colored lithographic portraits created in the 1830s as a result of Native American treaty agreements that were signed in 1827 at Prairie du Chien. The portraits depict five different chiefs representing the various Indian nations that took part in the treaty signing.


Untitled, Bernhard Schneider, oil on canvas, ca. 1887, 23 5/8 x 32 inches

West Bend Art Museum Collection

In speaking of the collection, West Bend Art Museum Director, Tom Lidtke stated that, "the collection is particularly strong in the area of academically-trained European immigrant artists who settled in Wisconsin as a result of a business venture which placed Milwaukee at the center of America's panorama painting phoneme, an artistic venture which produced enormous paintings on canvas, some as large as five stories high and 400' long." Wisconsin's earliest sculptors, Vinnie Reem-Hoxie and Helen Farnsworth Mears, are both represented in this collection. Reem-Hoxie was the first woman and youngest artist ever commissioned by the United States Senate to do a national sculpture. She was chosen to do the posthumous life-size portrait of Abraham Lincoln, which today stands in the National Capital Rotunda.

Lydia fly, whose work is included in this collection, is another woman artist who made a major impact in her time. She was responsible for organizing Wisconsin's first art exhibitions.

The Museum's early Wisconsin art exhibition focuses on significant Wisconsin artists who are today, for the most part, lesser known. During the last two decades, there has been a renewed interest in this type of regional art and the West Bend Art Museum has experienced this resurgence of interest most recently in 1996 when it participated in and loaned three paintings to an exhibition at the German History Museum in Berlin, Germany. The director of the museum, Thomas Lidtke, also contributed a chapter to the exhibition's book, "VICE VERSA: German Artists in America and American Artists in Germany." The collection has been studied and written about by eminent American and European art historians.

Many 19th to mid-20th century works which will be exhibited including those created by artists from the Works Progress Administration and the Wisconsin Regional Arts artists program. Modernists who introduced abstract art to the state, which had been immersed for 80 years in European tradition will also be included.

The art museum has also received a Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Commission grant administered by the Wisconsin Humanities Council to produce a related temporary exhibition that examines the early origins of-this state's strong visual arts history. Foundations of Art in Wisconsin opens for six weeks in the summer of 1998. It features a seven-part exhibition and publication. The exhibition travels to Manitowoc and Sturgeon Bay after it closes in West Bend. The art museum is also producing color reproductions from the collection and three related publications including a chronology of Wisconsin art and history to 1950.

The West Bend Art Museum is open free to the public from Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Sundays 1:00 - 4:30 p.m. The art museum's early Wisconsin art archives have listings of more than 1,500 early Wisconsin artists. Its resources are open for public research on Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. The art museum is located at 300 South 6th Avenue in downtown West Bend. Group tours can be arranged by calling 414-334-9638.

Be sure to visit more of Resource Library Magazine with articles and essays on American art, calendars, and much more. Here are links to selected sections of the magazine:

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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