March 2012


As University students unpacked their bonnets – with all the frills upon it -and dusted off their baskets in preparation for the Easter holiday in 1937, they were introduced to a multi-cultural celebration of Easter traditions at the University Gallery, which held a one-day exhibit of Ukranian Easter Eggs.

Clippings from the Minneapolis Tribune and the MN Daily found within the Gallery press books illuminate the exhibit, cultural traditions, and artistry involved in the decoration of eggs in the Ukraine:

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The beeswax-decorated eggs are known as pysanka. If you’d like to see more pysanka, travel to the Pysanka Museum.

Curt, Quick… Quirt


After viewing the exhibit poster for “Walter Quirt: Paintings and Drawings, Jan. 6 to 26, 1959,” here is a short and brief glimpse into the 1959 records that document the exhibition of the works of University faculty member Walter Quirt:

A December 15, 1958 University News Release for the January 1959 Quirt exhibit described, “Quirt, who has taught at the University for 11 years, is one of the acknowledged pioneers in American abstract art. Minnesota was deliberately chosen by Quirt after his 17 years of work in New York City. ”This’, Quirt feels, ‘Is the ideal environment for the ‘new art’ – an art which returns to the human figure. New York is the better location for the non-objective painter, but not for the painter of people.’” (Digital Conservancy).

Seventeen oils and 15 large wash drawings” comprised the exhibition, several of which were being viewed by visitors to the exhibition in these photographs found within the exhibition file in Box 7 of the archival collection:

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A clipping, dated 1-7-1959, that is not identified by publication, was included in a series of scrapbooks documenting the gallery from 1957-1959:


Art imitates… history?

The following image, titled, “Still Life” was found on a University Gallery Press book page along with newspaper clippings related to the opening of the Fine Arts Room at the University Gallery in February of 1936:

The Fine Arts Room, established by Ruth Lawrence and Malcolm Willey, was created with the intent of stimulating interest in fine arts amongst the University student population. As Willey indicated in a January 29, 1936 article in the MN Daily, “This new art room, distinctly American and modern in its conception, is being specially decorated in simple but excellent taste. Here will be placed a few well selected books and magazines in fine art, but nothing for formal study, which will be prohibited.

Woodhouse.jpgArt imitates history… as on the last few days of February 2012, WAM staff set up some furnishings in one of their new galleries – the Woodhouse Family Gallery. Incidentally, this gallery is “distinctly American and modern in its conception,” as it prominently features the museum’s collection of the works of artists Alfred Maurer and Marsden Hartley. Next to the furnishings, staff also “placed a few well selected books in fine art,” for visitors to read at their leisure.

While formal study in the Woodhouse Gallery is not prohibited per say – the intent of the new furnishings is to create a simple – but excellent – atmosphere in which to look at… and learn about… art.

“This is art-just in case you don’t know.”

In March of 1938, the Gallery exhibited, “International Show of Abstract Painting and Sculpture,” which included works from Eileen Holding of Chicago and other works loaned from New York galleries. Artists represented in the show included: Alexander Calder, Naum Gabo, Jean Helion, Henry Moore, Ladislaus Moholy-Nagy, and John Piper.

A clipping indicates how the Minneapolis Journal covered the exhibition:


Yet another clipping from the MN Daily from March 5, 1938, titled, “Colored Lights Set Off Art Exhibition,” indicated that Calder’s abstract mobiles were accompanied by special effects:

“Colored lights are in use for the first time in the University Gallery, Northrop auditorium, where the “International Exhibition of Abstract Painting and Sculpture” is showing.

In one corner of the main room, a yellow light sets off a kinetic construction by Alexander Calder. The construction, which consists chiefly of unusually shaped wooden pieces, casts a bizarre shadow on the wall. In the opposite corner a blue light shines upon another ‘mobile’ by the same artist. This work consisted of a curved metal rod from which hang curious wooden objects tied to strings. The slightest touch will set all the objects into motion.”

Here are a few images of visitors in the gallery… some of them unknowingly looking at art:

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Who are you?

In addition to the records contained in the WAM archival collection, there are other records related to the museum that can be found in other collections at the University Archives. Archives staff shared with us photographs from the Photograph Collection related to the University Gallery. The only problem was, a few of the photographs did not have captions, thus, we could not determine who was captured within the image.

Who are you?

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It is not until I came across an article in The Minnesotan, 1967-1968 on the Digital Conservancy that I found an answer. These very photos were published alongside a feature article about the gallery titled, “The Place Upstairs” (referring to the gallery – located upstairs in Northrop Auditorium). Pages 6 and 7 of the issue of this publication featured the two photographs from the Photograph Collection at the Archives, and also provided captions…

Left Image: “Museum Director Charles C. Savage, Museum Assistant Helen M. Thian, Art Gallery Technician Larry L. Grunewald.

Right Image: “Mrs. Harold W. Smith and Mrs. Robert L. Summers chat at the opening of the Faculty Women’s Club exhibition at the Gallery.

Thank you again Digital Conservancy!