The Finest in the Western Country: Wisconsin Decorative Arts 1820–1900

September 11, 2008–January 4, 2009
Decorative Arts Gallery–Lower Level

The decorative arts of nineteenth-century Wisconsin tell a story of cultural complexity and rapid change. This exhibition brings together for the first time over 40 important objects from the collections of historical societies, museums, and private individuals throughout Wisconsin to create a diverse array of furniture, ceramics, textiles, and metalwork. Together they reflect the early history of the region—viewed as the “Western Country” by the more established East—as it underwent a dramatic transition from frontier territory to settled state. These works were brought to light through the efforts of the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database project, an ongoing collaboration of the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Chipstone Foundation to find and document early Wisconsin decorative arts for a publicly accessible online archive.

Opening Lecture

Thursday, September 11, 6:15 p.m.

Opening lecture by Guest Curator Emily Pfotenhauer
Lubar Auditorium, free with general admission

Gallery Talks

Tuesday, September 23, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, December 9, 1:30 p.m.

Decorative Art Gallery

This exhibition is organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Chipstone Foundation and guest curated by Emily Pfotenhauer, Hummel Fellow at the Chipstone Foundation. Organized at the Milwaukee Art Museum by Sarah Fayen, curator at the Chipstone Foundation.
  • Aslak Lie, Cupboard, 1870. Springdale, Wisconsin. Painted pine, bronze, and porcelain. 77½ x 59⅛ x 21 in. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Julia B. Bigelow Fund, by John Bigelow.
  • Heikki Saukko, Rocking Chair, ca. 1899. Lakeside, Wisconsin. Cedar. Douglas County Historical Society