In the 1870s Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a lively industrial city that lacked a concentration of art. So, in 1972 a group of organizations came together to bring art and culture to Milwaukee. One of the members, Frederick Layton, played a critical role in establishing a prominent art scene in Milwaukee. Layton hired renowned British architects, W. J. and G. A. Audsley, as well as compiling a collection of 38 paintings to create the first permanent art gallery in Milwaukee, named the Layton Art Gallery.
Shortly after Layton founded his art gallery, the Milwaukee Art Association was founded. The Milwaukee Art Association quickly moved to a new building near the Layton Art Gallery and changed their name to the Milwaukee Art Society. By 1914, the Milwaukee Art Society was extremely popular and offered a variety of special events and educational programs to the general public. Then, in 1916 the Milwaukee Art Society changed their name, once again, to the Milwaukee Art Institute.
Following the educational standard set by the Milwaukee Art Institute, the Layton Art Gallery began creating innovative programs under the gallery’s director, Charlotte Partridge. As the Layton Art Gallery began to grow, the Milwaukee Art Institute’s director, Alfred Pelikan, began to form a partnership with the members of the Layton Art Gallery. This partnership grew until the late 1950s when the Milwaukee Art Institute and Layton Art Gallery merged together, which created the Milwaukee Art Center.
Throughout the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the Milwaukee Art Center continued to expand architecturally, educationally, and artistically. Large donations from renowned art collectors, such as Mrs. Harry (Peg) Lynde Bradley, helped the Milwaukee Art Center expand. Finally, in the early 1980s, the Milwaukee Art Center became officially recognized by the American Association of Museums and became known as the Milwaukee Art Museum.
The Milwaukee Art Museum is fortunate to have a large and comprehensive permanent art collection that features some of the work that Mr. Layton used to create his art gallery. The museum’s permanent attractions include over 25,000 pieces of art work that date back from ancient times. The Milwaukee Art Museum is mostly regarded for their extensive permanent collection of German Expressionist art, Haitian art, and American decorative art.
The Mrs. Harry L. Bradley Collection displays the magnificent art work that Mrs. Harry L. Bradley donated in the early 1970s. This extensive permanent collection was the leading reason why the Bradley Wing was built in 1975. Some of the highlights of this collection include European prints and sculptures, as well as American paintings and prints that date from the 19th century to 1970.
The Floyd and Josephine Segel Collection of Photography contains approximately 300 photographs from a variety of renowned photographers, such as Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Irving Penn, Garry Winogrand, and Billy Brandt.
The Maurice and Esther Leah Ritz Collection showcases around 300 pieces of art work that encompasses German Expressionist art and the Ashcan school. Some of the featured artists include; Alexej von Jawlensky, Jacques Villon, Paul Gauguin, and Paula Modersohn-Becker.
Like any other renowned museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum frequently houses traveling art exhibitions. In order to get an idea of the typical special attractions the museum showcases, here are two of the current special attractions:
Ralston Crawford: Art is for Every Day showcases Ralston Crawford’s influence from the environment and the jazz age in New Orleans. Crawford was known for creating art that resembled everyday life, yet was still thought provoking. This exhibit is on display until January 29, 2017.
Paper Play: Kindergarten to Contemporary Art explores how contemporary art can be fun, exciting, and educational. Visitors can explore how various contemporary artists applied educational foundations that were made by the creator of kindergarten, Friedrich Frobel. This exhibit is on display until July 16, 2017.
The Milwaukee Art Museum is home to a variety of educational programs for people of all ages. Their expansive and innovative educational programs include; group activities, specialized tours, discussions and lectures, and classes. There are several programs that occur on specific nights of the week and also workshops where participants can learn how to create art themselves.
700 N. Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53202, Phone: 414-224-3200