Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Art Museum, "Mr. Layton's Gallery"

2013 is the 125th anniversary year of Milwaukee's public art museum, originally the Layton Art Gallery, which was a mile or so away from the present Milwaukee Art Museum, on Cathedral Square. The first Gallery housed the collection of Fredrick Layton, philanthropist and collector, who decided to open his collection to the public in 1888. When layton died in 1919, he left his artworks to become the foundation of what would become the Milwaukee Art Institute, and eventually the Milwaukee Art Museum we know today.

The "Mr. Layton's Gallery" tribute to the founder takes up one of the larger galleries, and is densely hung ("salon style") with works that were added to the collection by Layton. These include pieces that have been on permanent display, such as "The Last Spartan" sculpture, and paintings "The Woodgatherer," and some that were taken from the vaults. Masters such as Winslow Homer ("Hark, the Lark"), Bouguereau ("Homer and his Guide") and Alma-Tadema ("A Roman Art Lover") are all represented.

It is very interesting to compare this exhibition with the "Treasures of Kenwood House," which covered a roughly equivalent period of individual collecting. By contrast with Lord Iveagh, Fredrick Layton seems to have had a more classical and less sentimental aesthetic. Although Layton shows a typically Victorian preference for landscapes either beautiful or dramatic, absent, at least from this selection, are any pretty children, and the portraits seem to have been chosen more for their interest than for their beauty.

This one gallery provides a very interesting sample of the Museum's early permanent collection, and of Milwaukee's cultural history.

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Tags: art, museum
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