American Beauty

February 13 - March 15, 2015
Curated by Kate Gelshenen Rafferty

American artist Thomas Cole's (1801-1848) 1835 Essay on American Scenery championed the American landscape, and its distinctive natural beauty as hallmarks of national identity. American Beauty explores Cole's influence on a number of 19th century American painters working in diverse landscape aesthetics. The exhibition includes work by William Merritt Chase, Ralph Albert Blakelock, and George Inness.



World War I Posters

Art For The Cause: French Posters from the First World War
March 27 - July 22
Margaret Fish Rahill Great Hall

As in the United States, France solicited the support of its citizenry, both moral and financial, through large-format posters displayed in the windows of publicly- and privately-owned venues. Countries on both sides of the Atlantic commissioned leading artists and illustrators to provide the poster designs and drawings. Despite their common intentions, the French posters took on a more tragic character than their American counterparts, reflecting the devastation of the landscape and on the lives of soldiers and their families. The exhibition is an opportunity for CAVT Museums, until recently a body under the War Memorial Corporation umbrella, to reflect on the turbulence of warfare and its portrayal in original works by the likes of Francisque Poulbot and Steinlen.

Gathered by Harriet Earling Fitch during the war years and after, the collection is a physical embodiment of an American philanthropist’s longstanding relationship with a foreign country. Long before the entrance of the United States into the conflict, Harriet Fitch (later Thwaits Dake) organized and directed the Milwaukee chapter of the Fatherless Children of France and was instrumental in the founding of the Foster Mothers of America. Both organizations and Harriet Earling Fitch’s philanthropic work focused on the care and support of the millions of children left fatherless by one of the deadliest conflicts in world history. For her efforts, she was awarded the Legion of Honor from the French government; her medal will be on display in the exhibition, along with archival news clippings that outline her achievements in her charitable and philanthropic work.

About 20 posters, generously lent by the family of Thomas Van Alyea Jr., will go on display in the museum’s great hall in this small exhibition held 100 years following World War I.


More on Less: The Art of Burlesque

More on Less: The History of Burlesque From Lydia Thompson to Amber Ray
April 10 - July 5, 2015

More on Less: The History of Burlesque From Lydia Thompson to Amber Ray presents the history of burlesque in America—surveying its cultural influence and artistic development from the milestone performances that popularized its early stars, to the legislative and political backlash that undermined them, and ultimately, to the advent of Neo-Burlesque and the rise of a new set of burlesque icons.

Stars like Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, Lili St. Cyr, Rose La Rose, Tempest Storm, Jennie Lee, Dixie Evans, Ann Corio, and contemporary performers Dita von Teese and Amber Ray are all on display, represented in photographs, costumes, advertisements, playbills, posters, vintage footage, sheet music, art, and autobiographies.  Authentic costumes, both historic and contemporary, are major highlights of the exhibition. Ann Corio’s 1970s jade chiffon gown, worn in HBO’s 1988This Was Burlesque, pairs with more recent designs by international performer Amber Ray. Costumes and other materials will also represent the history of men in burlesque, covering the trope of the straight man to the “top banana” comics like Bert Lahr.

Works by major artists are also included, demonstrating the appeal of burlesque, its dancers, and its audiences as subjects for modern painters and photographers. Reginald Marsh, Garry Winogrand and Ed Paschke are included, along with rarely-seen work by Milwaukee artist Charles Thwaites.

This exhibition draws on national and Wisconsin collections to tell an American story with a local focus.  Lenders to the exhibition include the Burlesque Hall of Fame; Burlyqnell – the Janelle Smith Collection; Steven Daiter Gallery, Chicago; Kiechel Fine Art, Omaha, Nebraska; Alan Koppel Gallery, Chicago; the Milwaukee Art Museum; Milwaukee County Historical Society; Milwaukee Public Library, Museum of Wisconsin Art, and the Theatre Historical Society of America, among many others.

This exhibition is organized by guest curators Annemarie Sawkins, PhD, and Martha Chaiklin, PhD.


Past Exhibitions