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Museum Director Marcelle Giving a Press Preview

Milwaukee Art Museum to Showcase Designs of George Mann Niedecken

Posted on March 31st, 2008

Milwaukee, WI, April 2, 2008– A legendary contributor to the Prairie School legacy is honored with a retrospective exhibition in Milwaukee this spring. The Milwaukee Art Museum is proud to present A Revolutionary in Milwaukee: The Designs of George Mann Niedecken in its Koss Gallery April 17-July 20, 2008. The exhibition offers an in-depth exploration into Niedecken’s interior design, showcasing his incredible body of work for prominent families in Milwaukee, against the backdrop of late-nineteenth-century local history.

A Revolutionary in Milwaukee features furniture, art-glass windows, cast plaster wall fragments, presentation drawings, historical photographs, and a room tableau. The over 60 items on view are from Niedecken’s commissions for, among others, the Demmer residence of Milwaukee’s east-side Water Tower District, Henry Harnischfeger residence on Grand Avenue, and Frederick Pabst, Jr., residence on Lake Oconomowoc. 

A self-named “interior architect,” George Mann Niedecken brought a breath of fresh European air to Milwaukee’s stagnant interiors. His schooling in Europe during a pivotal period in International design affected him greatly. He was able to bring back to Milwaukee those tools that he explored while on the Continent and to interpret them for eager clients wanting the new, and in many cases, the avant-garde. Fusing Arts & Crafts, Vienna Secession, and other schools and elements of design, Niedecken created a style that was uniquely interesting and timeless.

“Most domestic architecture today shows few signs of the sort of courageous creativity that George Mann Niedecken and his contemporaries-like George Elmslie, Frank Purcell, Gustav Dick, and Frank Lloyd Wright-brought to American neighborhoods more than 100 years ago,” notes guest curator John C. Eastberg. Senior historian at the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Eastberg adds, “Niedecken’s early work as an interior designer in Milwaukee holds a special place in a city that values its craftsmen.”

A Revolutionary in Milwaukee is guest curated by John C. Eastberg, senior historian at the Captain Pabst Mansion, and sponsored by the Mae E. Demmer Charitable Trust.

Catalogue Reprint

The Domestic Scene (1897-1927): George M. Niedecken, Interior Architect
Second Edition, Expanded
Cheryl Robertson with contributions by Terrence Marvel
Second edition contributions by John C. Eastberg
Distributed for the Milwaukee Art Museum by the University of Wisconsin Press
Soft cover, 120 pages
$32/$28.80 Members
Available at the Milwaukee Art Museum Store: 414-224-3210; www.mam.org/store

Researchers and amateur enthusiasts alike will enjoy the expanded second edition of this seminal catalogue, out of print since the original 500 printed in 1981.

Exhibition Programs

Opening Reception and Lecture
Thursday, April 17, 5:30 p.m.
Koss Gallery
Free with general admission

Join guest curator John C. Eastberg for an exclusive opportunity to learn more about the life and work of George Mann Niedecken. Lecture begins at 6:15 p.m. No reservations required.

Conservation of the American Collections: George Mann Niedecken
Saturday, May 3
This daylong program focuses on the challenges of conserving the works by Niedecken in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Collection, including drawings, furniture, and archival material. For payment and reservation information call 414-224-3277. Sponsored by American Heritage Society.

Gallery Talks with guest curator John C. Eastberg
Tuesday, May 20, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 8, 1:30 p.m.
Koss gallery
Free with general admission

Digital images available upon request