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150 Years of Wisconsin Printmaking

November 12, 1999 - January 2, 2000

 

Russell Panczenko, Director of the Elvehjem Museum at the University of Wisconsin, wrote the forward to the catalogue for the exhibition 150 Years of Wisconsin Printmaking, which was first presented at that museum. In the forward to the catalogue, Mr. Panczenko gives an overview to the exhibition and its place of special meaning in the history of Wisconsin art. In the forward he writes: "This exhibition and the accompanying catalogue celebrate the breadth of printmaking in Wisconsin and document the work of the past 150 years as both the university and the state celebrate their sesquicentennials. The exhibition 150 Years of Wisconsin Printmaking reveals the wealth of artwork that Wisconsin has produced since its statehood and will certainly deepen the public's understanding and appreciation of Wisconsin and its artists."(left: Albert Mueller, Milwaukee, Wis. , 1886, color lithograph, 22 3/8 x 30 11/16 inches, Milwaukee Art Museum, gift of the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company, M1982.6)

Mr. Panczenko continues: "Printmaking has been an important part of the history of the state: prints constitute the first images that attracted settlers to Wisconsin; fine lithographs were produced by the successful publishers in Milwaukee; Wisconsin's pioneering rural arts project resulted in many prints and many of the state's most important contemporary works of art are in the print medium." (right: Frank Enders (1860-1921), Jones Island, 1888-89, etching, 5 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches, Milwaukee Art Museum, gift of George Raab, M1918.7)

The exhibition was organized by Elvehjem Museum Curator of Prints and Drawings Andrew Stevens, who wrote the main essay in the catalogue. Stevens writes about the first printmakers of Wisconsin: "In the second half of the nineteenth century, starting about a decade after statehood, immigrants from Germany established lithographic printing houses in Milwaukee that produced the first prints in Wisconsin. Most work these lithographic houses did was commercial; all were in business to make a profit, and ephemeral commodities like labels, advertising broadsides, even stock certificates were an important part of their output. However, there are efforts that rise above the general run of the products these companies produced, both by the evident pride that their producers took in them and, in retrospect, from a historical prospective.Whether or not they are seen as fine art, these serve as milestones in the early history of Wisconsin printmaking."

Stevens notes that the "first successful printmaker in Wisconsin was Henry Siefert, Sr. (born in 1824 in Saxony and died in 1911 in Milwaukee), who came to the United States from Germany in 1852 and by 1859 had established Siefert and Robins, the first of several Milwaukee lithographic firms that bore his name. Over the next twenty years he lent his name to various firms and finally to the Milwaukee Lithographing and Engraving Company, where he was president until 1899... The elaborately framed images from around the City of Milwaukee of 1886 is an example of the lithography company's contribution to the growing number of city images made in the nineteenth century. Designed for the Milwaukee Lithographing and Engraving Company by Albert Mueller, about whom little information exists, the lithograph... brings together the principal civic attractions of Milwaukee.The ornate verdant framing which includes wildflowers, trees, insects, animals, and a group of women and children hints that the city is situated in an idyllic setting...The busy population that inhabits these scenes gives the impression of Milwaukee as a city with active commerce and an active social side."

 

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