Tuesday, November 24, 2015


The Grohmann Museum, located on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in downtown Milwaukee, is a true hidden gem.  It is primarily an art museum, but with a specific theme: man at work.  The museum includes three floors of wall and sculptural art, as well as a sculpture garden and a stained glass window collection on the building's roof.

The building in which the museum is housed has had a number of uses in the past, including car dealerships and more recently a check processing center of the Federal Reserve.  Conversion to the museum was begun in 2005 and included the creation of a three-story atrium at the corner entrance of the building.  Here first is a shot of the atrium looking down from the third floor.

The floor includes a mosaic with a workplace motif.  Here are a few detail shots of that mosaic.

The mosaic tiling is quite nice, as shown in this close-cropped portion of the above image.

Here is a shot looking up from the floor of the atrium, revealing the spiraling stairways to the upper floors.

And a shot of the cherubs in the center of the mural gracing the atrium's ceiling.  

As mentioned, there are two or three floors of art, primarily with the theme of workers and the workplace.  Here are some examples of the wall art that the museum includes.

These last four are details from larger works.  The galleries also include a good deal of sculptural art, including the following.

Photographing one of the pieces, with the title Bending Steel Bar, reminded me of the importance of light in photography.  Here, first, is a shot from the lighted side of the sculpture, which seemed to make sense but is just OK, I thought.

I find it notoriously difficult to shoot bronze sculptures.  For one thing the color of the bronze is not always attractive.  In addition, the light reflecting off the sculpture can pose problems, which are evident to some extent in the above shot.  However, by shooting the sculpture from the other side, I was able to convert it to a semi-silhouette, against the light background.

Much stronger, I think.

Not every piece of art has an obvious workplace theme.  There are a couple of 16th century paintings of the Tower of Babel, for example.  I guess one could call those work-related, but it's a bit of a stretch.  And there was a Remington bronze, entitled The Bronco Buster.

The roof houses both an exterior sculpture garden and an enclosed room that features eight large stained glass windows.  The room is not open to the public, at least not on the day of my visit, but it does feature viewing windows through which I was able to photograph a number of the stained glass pieces.  Here are three of those.

Each of the 88"x 64" windows was actually commissioned as a reproduction of another, original painting featured in the museum's galleries.

For me, the highlight of the museum is the sculpture garden on the building's roof.  The perimeter of the roof is lined with 12 larger-than-life (9-foot tall) bronze sculptures featuring various manual labor workers.  The sculptures were each modeled on other older, original sculptures.  Here is a wider-angled shot that includes a number of those sculptures.

The fact that the museum is in an urban setting with the city as a background adds to the experience.  Here are a number of the sculptures shown individually.

My favorite shot is of a glassblower who had oversized hands.  

By moving close in and focusing on the hands, I was able to further exaggerate their size.

I know I will be returning to the museum for another shoot.  Unfortunately, Milwaukee is now heading into winter, and, with the most interesting aspect of the museum located on the roof, I'm not sure when I will get back.  But it will be just a matter of time.

And here's the best part.  The cost of admission is only $5 ($3 for seniors!) and includes a extremely nice 58-page color booklet of the museum's history and collection.


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