Milwaukee Art Museum Presents Major Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Masterpieces of the Baroque Period This September

Art, Life, Legacy: Northern European Paintings in the Collection of Isabel and Alfred Bader includes five works by or attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn

Milwaukee, WI—May 25, 2023—This fall, the Milwaukee Art Museum will present Art, Life, Legacy: Northern European Paintings in the Collection of Isabel and Alfred Bader, a major exhibition of more than 75 exquisite Dutch and Flemish masterpieces of the Baroque period, including works by Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan Lievens. Featuring works assembled by the Museum’s late patrons and supporters Drs. Isabel and Alfred Bader, the exhibition pays tribute to the Baders’ extraordinary lives and generosity and illuminates the transformations of Dutch society in the 17th century through the lens of art history. Art, Life, Legacy: Northern European Paintings in the Collection of Isabel and Alfred Bader will be on view in the Museum’s Baker/Rowland Galleries from September 29, 2023 through January 28, 2024.

“Art deepens our understanding and connection to our shared humanity, a belief that led Isabel and Alfred Bader to be longstanding supporters of the Milwaukee Art Museum,” said Marcelle Polednik, Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. “This exhibition is an opportunity to celebrate the Baders’ incredible legacy and share their unrivaled ‘joy of collecting’ with our community.”

Art, Life, Legacy: Northern European Paintings in the Collection of Isabel and Alfred Bader opens with an array of biblical scenes, primarily drawn from the Hebrew Bible, grouped according to key themes reflecting Alfred Bader’s life story: generosity, sacrifice, struggle, faith, family, and journey. Other sections of the exhibition examine mythological scenes, the construction of identity, and the way that global trade and colonial expansion both built the wealth and prestige of the Dutch Republic during this period, but also fundamentally shifted their view of the world.

“Dr. Alfred Bader’s extraordinary story and the principles by which he lived are intrinsically linked to the paintings that the Milwaukee Art Museum has the privilege of presenting in Art, Life, Legacy,” said Tanya Paul, exhibition curator and the inaugural Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art. “This exhibition reflects Isabel and Alfred’s legacies as dedicated connoisseurs, researchers, and educators and extends their profound impact on the Museum and the Milwaukee community. I am delighted to welcome visitors this fall to celebrate their history of generosity and explore these extraordinary works.”

Among the notable works featured in the exhibition are:

  • Head of an Old Man in a Cap, a luminous character study completed by Rembrandt van Rijn ca. 1630, one of five artworks in the exhibition by or attributed to the Dutch master;
  • The Angel with Manoah and his Wife, an indelibly moving painting completed by Rembrandt’s early teacher Pieter Lastman in 1617;
  • Profile Head of an Old Woman (‘Rembrandt’s Mother’), ca. 1630, a virtuosic character study by Rembrandt contemporary Jan Lievens, whose work the Bader collection holds in depth;
  • Still Life with a Wanli Sugar Bowl, completed by Willem Kalf ca. 1678, which immortalizes the luxurious global commodities coveted by the newly affluent Dutch merchant class, including silver, porcelain, shells, and textiles;
  • Landscape with Tobias and the Angel, with a View of Antwerp in the Background, an intimate religious scene subsumed within a radiant depiction of the countryside around the city of Antwerp, completed by Gillis Neyts in the 1660s;
  • and Self-portrait with Skull, an insouciant statement about the power of art to transcend mortality completed by Michael Sweerts ca. 1661.

About Alfred and Isabel Bader

Dr. Alfred Bader’s strength of character was forged in profound adversity. On the cusp of World War II, Germany annexed Austria, and Alfred, a 14-year-old Austrian of Czech Jewish descent, was evacuated from Vienna to England via the Kindertransport program, which rescued an estimated 10,000 children from the Nazis. From England, he was deported to Canada where he was detained in an internment camp. The Montreal journalist and historian Martin Wolff secured his freedom and guided him to enroll at Queen’s University in Ontario. Subsequently, Bader completed advanced studies in organic chemistry at Harvard University and, in 1950, he settled in Milwaukee. As the founder of Aldrich Chemical Company, he built an innovative, and highly successful business, while simultaneously nurturing a passion for collecting old master paintings.

Beginning in 1952, when he became a member of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Bader guided and shaped the Museum’s European art program. In addition to donating significant works of art to the Museum’s collection and encouraging his fellow collectors in Milwaukee to do the same, Bader served as an advisor to the Museum and made his curatorial debut with the exhibition The Bible Through Dutch Eyes (1976). In 1982, Alfred Bader married his second wife Isabel Bader, a passionate educator and champion of increased access to the arts, with whom he guest curated The Detective’s Eye: Investigating the Old Masters (1989). Alfred passed away in 2018 at the age of 94 and Isabel passed away in 2022 at the age of 95. In spring 2023, Bader Philanthropies and the Milwaukee Art Museum inaugurated the Isabel and Alfred Bader European Art Program Endowment Fund in their honor, at which time the position of Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art was also made permanent.

Exhibition Publication

Art, Life, Legacy: Northern European Paintings in the Collection of Isabel and Alfred Bader will be accompanied by a 192-page scholarly catalogue featuring 100 images and several essays, including an essay by Tanya Paul chronicling Alfred Bader’s relationship to the Milwaukee Art Museum and an essay by Suzanne van de Meerendonk that provides greater context on Alfred Bader’s interests as a collector.

Presenting Sponsorship support for this exhibition is provided by Bader Philanthropies, Inc. All 2023 exhibitions are supported by the 2023 Visionaries. The Milwaukee Art Museum extends our sincere thanks to these donors for their leadership.

About the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum is an essential destination for art and architecture and a vital cultural resource that connects visitors to dynamic art experiences and one another. Housed in iconic buildings by Santiago Calatrava, Eero Saarinen, and David Kahler on a 24-acre lakefront campus, the Museum is Wisconsin’s largest art institution and home to both broad and deep collections, with exceptional holdings in American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; conceptual and minimalist art; prints and drawings; European art from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century; photography and new media; modern and contemporary design; folk and self-taught art; and twentieth-century Haitian art. A bold symbol of Milwaukee’s ambition and forward-thinking vision, the Museum is a place for community building, education, and celebration, that fosters creativity and critical discourse for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. For more information, visit

Media Contacts

For more information or to request images, please contact:

Cortney Heimerl
Milwaukee Art Museum