Articles by wilso952

Hudson Walker: Curator, Patron, Friend

In a report compiled by long-time gallery director Ruth Lawrence to reflect upon the 25th anniversary of the Little Gallery in 1959, a section titled, “The First Curator,” described Hudson D. Walker’s background and his brief, though instrumental, role in the foundation of the Weisman Art Museum as The Little Gallery in 1934:


“The University was most fortunate in obtaining Hudson Walker, who in March, 1934, was appointed the Gallery’s first curator of art. Mr. Walker was experienced in Gallery operations and management. He was the grandson of Mr. T. B. Walker, founder of the Walker Art Gallery. Hudson Walker was no novice in the functioning of a museum. He had been trained at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, for work such as this. He knew the practical side, the importance of shipping and care of works of art worth thousands of dollars. He was especially aware of the responsibility of borrowed works. He had developed a small gallery of his own in Minneapolis, dealing in such works as watercolors, woodcuts, etchings, etc.”

Walker was officially appointed to the title of “Curator of Art” at the University in March of 1934, and departed at the end of his appointment in June in order to pursue the establishment of a gallery in New York City. However, his role with the University of Minnesota and the Little Gallery did not conclude with the end of his employment. Walker’s relationship would inspire additional titles in relation to his contributions to the University and to the museum.

Lawrence’s description of the First Curator only briefly touches upon the work done by Walker in those few months he was employed at the U of M. For the very first exhibit that was held at the gallery, he arranged for the loan of 18th and 19th century paintings from regional art museums, and covered the expense to insure the works out of his own pocket. At his departure, Walker imparted some advice to university administration that would shape the formation of the gallery in its formative years. He emphasized to Assistant to the President Malcolm Willey that “There should be some anchorage provided in the way of a permanent collection to insure a permanency of interest” and added that the gallery should emphasize a “workshop character” as opposed to the “traditional notion of a museum as a place for safekeeping of rare objects.”

In 1950, Walker placed works from his private collection on loan to the University of Minnesota. The loan included many pieces by the artists Alfred Maurer and Marsden Hartley. He, along with his wife Ione, also made many generous gifts of artwork and additional donations to the gallery in the following years.

WalkerOutstandingService.jpgIn 1965, Walker became an award winner and honoree when he received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Minnesota Alumni Association. A letter (at left, click for a pop-up to read) from the President of the Minnesota Alumni Association addressed to Gallery curator Betty Maurstad, extended a formal invitation to the ceremony that was held to present Walker with the award.

In conjunction with Walker’s receipt of this award, an exhibit titled One Hundred Paintings Drawings and Prints from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection was held from November 4-December 19, 1965 at the University Gallery. A dedication by University of Minnesota President O. Meredith Wilson, printed within the catalogue that was prepared for the exhibition stated, “The collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walker is an important resource in furthering the University of Minnesota objectives of teaching, research and service and has aided immeasurably the University’s development of significant programs in the visual arts.”

Exhibition catalogue, One Hundred Paintings Drawings and Prints from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection:
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Polaroid photographs taken at the exhibit opening show Walker amongst other attendees in the hallways and stairwell that lead to the gallery in Northrop Auditorium:
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WalkerExhibitOutline.jpgA drawing of a proposed gallery layout for the exhibit was found in the exhibition file in Box 11 of WAM’s archived administration records. From the drawing, (at left, click for pop-up to review) one can assume that the exhibit was split into sections-one section of 22 miscellaneous works from Walker’s collection, another section that contained 12 works by the artists Alfred Maurer, another room dedicated to 14 large Marsden Hartley paintings, and a final section of Alfred Maurer graphic works, that appear to have been placed in the hallway that lead to the gallery.

More polaroids were found in the exhibition folder that show the works displayed in the gallery space:

Alfred Maurer, “Portrait of a Girl with Gray Background,” 1930, oil on composition board

(1) Alfred Maurer, “Two Heads,” 1930, oil on composition board
(2) Alfred Maurer, “Two Figures of Girls,” 1926, oil on composition board
(3) Alfred Maurer, “Still Life with Cup,” 1929, oil on composition board


Artworks by Marsden Hartley, as displayed in the exhibit:

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An additional item found alongside the polaroids in the exhibition folder is a note from Walker to President Wilson that expressed Walker’s appreciation for the acknowledgement he received from the University:
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Two additional titles were given to Walker on the occasion of a 1977 memorial exhibition titled, Hudson D. Walker: Patron and Friend. The exhibition commemorated Walker and the bequest of his collection to the museum.

Regardless of how one refers to Hudson Walker when recalling the history of the museum – first curator, patron, or friend – it is clear that no appellation can truly capture all of the contributions that he has made to its legacy.

Flowers to the Living

Web_WAM_003_StaffPhotographs_4.jpgFor the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the University Gallery, the retired former director, Ruth Lawrence, was asked to compile a history of the University of Minnesota’s Gallery of Art. In 24 typewritten pages, Ruth outlined the origin — and resulting ebbs and flows — of the gallery as she had experienced it. At the end of “Mrs. Lawrence’s 25 Yr. Report,” in a final paragraph titled, “Flowers to the Living,” Ruth expressed her gratitude to those who had contributed to the growth and development of the gallery over the years:

From the beginning, a loyalty and devotion which is touching to observe had been brought to the Gallery by almost everyone who came to work for it or who has been associated in any way with it. Perhaps its difficulties, struggles and working against great odds has engendered a feeling of fondness and of protectiveness. These people have offered to go the extra mile not required. They develop a faithfulness above personal plans and interest and energetically pour themselves fully into the work to be done.

Ruth goes on to name “gallery mechanic,” Carl Hawkinson, and curator/registrar Betty Maurstad to recognize their many years of service to the gallery.

Ruth ends her report with the following statements, “Too numerous to mention were those who were friendly with helpful counseling and suggestions. One cannot begin to list the names of our benefactors. To them we say, humbly and gratefully–Thank you!

Having now read through hundreds of letters written by Ruth, I have come to appreciate that when things need to be said, Ruth often said it best. The sentiments Ruth used to describe past museum employees can also be used to describe the museum’s current staff of registrars, curators, crew members, and others, who offered to go the extra mile to make the exhibit, The WAM Files: The Art of the Archives, possible.

To them, this humble and grateful graduate student says–Thank you!

You’re Invited: Women in the Weisman Collection

Each summer at WAM, an exhibit opens with a theme that focuses on the permanent collection. In the summer of 1998, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention–the milestone meeting that signaled the beginning of the women’s rights movement, the museum held an exhibit titled Women in the Weisman Collection: The Spirit of Seneca Falls.

An announcement sent out to promote the opening reception, concert, and exhibit was found in the archives:

*Click on the image for a larger pop-up version


Several of the female artists exhibited in the 1998 Women exhibit have works currently on display in WAM’s summer show, Tenuous, Though Real. Visit WAM through September 16th to view works by Harriet Bart, Hazel Belvo, Clara Mairs, Laura Migliorino, and Judy Onofrio.

Korean Art Exchange

WAM is noted first and foremost for its collection of American modernism – works produced during the first half of the 20th century. This is certainly due to the presence of the world’s largest collection of the works of Marsden Hartley and Alfred Maurer, as well as a large collection of pieces created by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists.

Yet many events significant in the history of the University of Minnesota, of which the museum is a part, also relate to the museum’s permanent collection. One such event occurred in 1957, when the University participated in an art exchange with Seoul National University in Korea. Work completed by University of Minnesota students and faculty were sent to Seoul National University and vice versa, in an exchange that contributed an artistic component to the on-going partnership that the two universities established in 1954.

WAM_006_January_Poste-r.jpgThe exhibit of Korean student and faculty work was held at the University Gallery in the winter of 1957. Several of the works within the exhibit were presented as gifts to the University from Seoul National University, and are now part of the museum’s permanent collection. (Three of these works are currently on display in the museum’s Korea Foundation Gallery, and compliment the museum’s collection of Korean furniture: Soo-Hyun Ro, “Autumn,” 1956; Woo Sung Chang, “Chrysanthemum,” 1956; “Grapes,” 1956.)

Prior to the art exchange, a partnership with Seoul National University began with a request from the Foreign Operations Administration to the University of Minnesota to aid Seoul National in recovery and reconstruction following the aftermath of the Korean War. An advisory committee was named by University President J.L. Morrill to implement a program of improvement at Seoul National. Architects, doctors, agricultural researchers, engineers, and higher education administrators spent time in residence at Seoul National to advise and assist with the development of coursework and training. Young faculty from Korea traveled to Minnesota to train at the university. The desired result was to rebuild the infrastructure at Seoul National – upgrade heating and plumbing systems, train faculty in emerging technologies, and build supplies of textbooks and equipment. Read a full description of the collaboration in the December 1956 edition of The Minnesotan on the Digital Conservancy (PDF page 35).

Clippings from various local print sources found within the University Gallery Press Books report upon the exhibit and include photographs that capture some of the works displayed:

*Click on the image for a pop-up of a larger version.

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Summer Exhibits

July is here! In a matter of weeks the The WAM Files: The Art of the Archives exhibit will open at the museum. While we patiently wait for the opening date, take a look back at exhibits from summers past through some of the promotional materials that were created to publicize them :

*Click on the image for a pop-up to a larger version.

Summer, 1956

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Summer, 1957

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Summer 1958

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Stop by WAM July 14th to see some of these posters (and others) in person!

Something fishy…

The recent opening of WAM’s summer show, Tenuous, Though Real, which features Minnesota artists, has me wondering – What makes a Minnesotan? There are certainly stereotypes – such as the tendency to accentuate vowels in verbal conversation, knowing the definition of the term “lutefisk,” and harboring a preferential way in which one prepares “lefsa” (If it isn’t with brown sugar, than all I have to say is… Ufda.)

I am a true Minnesotan, born and raised. However, I must confess that my identity as related to my home state is devoid of one common stereotype: I have never “gone fishing.” That is right… I have never put bait to hook, nor fly to reel… Growing up, the “great outdoors” was experienced at the ballpark rather than on one of the many thousands of MN lakes… (In fact, my hometown resides in the only county in the state without a natural lake.)

FishFormsCat.jpgDespite never experiencing the thrill of a big catch, I still understand and recognize the importance of the “fish” in MN culture. This understanding was likely the inspiration for an exhibit held at the University Gallery in the spring of 1955 titled, “Fish Forms in Art.” The works on display captured the form of the fish in a variety of mediums and represented many cultures.

A University Press Release from April 7, 1955 described the exhibit:

… an attempt was made to get objects representative of all major areas and periods in the history of art. [The] largest single group is made of works of contemporary artists such as Picasso, Braque, Lachaise, Lurcat, and Masson. The oldest piece in the showing of 97 objects is a slate palette in the shape of a fish dating from the predynastic period in Egypt (before 3200 B.C.) and loaned by the University Museum, Philadelphia… Because China and Korea consider the fish in special esteem, the two countries are represented by example of porcelain, painting and carving in ivory and jade. From America, Indian pottery from the southwest is shown along with a carved polychrome wood garden fountain…

Materials created to support and promote the exhibit include an exhibit catalog (above) as well as posters that were likely posted on campus bulletin boards.

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Photographs from the exhibit found in Box 5 of the WAM collection at the University Archives:
*Click on the photo for a pop-up to a larger version.


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A post on posters…

Planning continues for the WAM Files exhibit that will open at WAM on July 14th… The exhibit will feature, amongst other unique items from the Archives, some of the first items of intrigue that the project processors encountered – University Gallery exhibition posters. A WAM Files blog post from February 27, 2011 profiles processor Areca’s initial reaction to her discovery of a set of exhibit posters. As the project continued, we kept finding posters – in the exhibition files, in a separate over-sized materials collection at the Archives, and even more in a box in the back of WAM’s work room (which will later be transferred to the Archives).


One of the many posters that we encountered was created to promote an actual exhibition of posters. The exhibit, simply titled, “Posters,” was held in the Gallery in the fall of 1952.

Correspondence written by Assistant to the Director, Ivan Majdrakof – found within the exhibition record in Box 4 – described the exhibit:

Rather than the artist-designed poster we concentrated on what we thought were good posters encountering a large public. A high standard of design was our basic criteria. Sources of material were: the New York Subway Advertising, the New York Times, Army andNavy Recruiting offices, Foreign Travel agencies, Cancer Society, our own collection of World War I work, and private collectors of early European posters.


Label text from the exhibition stated:


WELL DESIGNED posters rarely reach a large audience and yet nearly every poster in this exhibit has been seen by a huge number of people.

THE PRIMARY reason for choosing one work and disregarding another was its DESIGN BASIS. Did the poster stop you and invite consideration? Was it eye-appealing? How well did it sell its product? How much did it use the DESIGN ELEMENTS easel painting had and is passing on to it?

THE WELL DESIGNED poster is invariably emotionally satisfying. There is no convincing emotion without GOOD DESIGN.

SINCE the criteria of a STRONGLY DESIGNED poster before a large public was used we found that certain categories of the poster-makerʼs art were eliminated. Sentiment, sex, the actual graphic portraying of a product are more often absent.

THE GREATEST successes DESIGN-WISE seem to be in the realm of ideas. The CAREFULLY DESIGNED poster seems to stress emotional attitudes. Subtler, non-visible ideas lend themselves to CONTEMPORARY DESIGN. Yet the same challenge is there for all poster or visual communication. Only through more “extreme” successful solutions as those on display here will the level of this art be generally raised.

THESE POSTERS divide into three approximate periods. The earliest displayed here are from about the thirties when European poster art was quite advanced from a DESIGN STANDPOINT. The typographic layout of these early German posters still influence the works of VISUAL DESIGNING today.

When the WAM Files exhibit opens in July, we hope that museum visitors find a few eye-appealing posters that will invite their consideration…

2 “e’s” and 2 “f’s”

Web_UA_Photos_FineArts_1.jpgThroughout the summer and fall of 1935, Dean Malcolm Willey and curator Ruth Lawrence were busy making preparations to open a Fine Arts Room as an extension of the gallery. They secured funds from President Coffman to furnish the room as well as to purchase an original work of art to serve as the focal point. Willey and Lawrence selected Georgia O’Keeffe’s, “Oak Leaves, Pink and Gray,” which they purchased in New York City.

In order to prepare for any possible errors in the eventual publicity that the opening of the room and the acquisition of the painting would likely receive, Willey wrote the following letter on October 25, 1935 and addressed it to The Minnesota Daily:

“I know that you are always anxious to come as close to accuracy as possible in the Daily, even to the spelling of names. During the next weeks you undoubtedly will have accounts referring from time to time to the special art room which the University is opening and the distinguished painting which the University has acquired for hanging in it. The artist is Georgia O’Keeffe. Would you instruct your desk men or whoever oversees such matters, that the proper spelling is with two “e’s” and 2 “f’s”: thus, O’Keeffe.”

Despite the forewarning, as found in two separate articles clipped from the Daily, Georgia’s surname was printed with a singular “f”:

From, “U Plans New Student Room for Art Study,” The Minnesota Daily, January 29, 1936:


From, “New Art Room Opens Sunday,” The Minnesota Daily, January 26, 1936:


You’re Invited: Grace Hartigan Paintings, 1957-1963

On September 23, 1963, the opening of an exhibition of the works of artist Grace Hartigan was held at the University Gallery in Northrop Auditorium. An invitation to the exhibition, found in the Gallery press books from the 1960s, is one of many clues found within the archives that can begin to describe the details and events surrounding exhibitions during this decade.


In addition to the opening invitation, an exhibition poster was created to announce and promote the exhibition–which ran through November. Posters were folded and mailed out to friends of the Gallery to publicize the exhibition. A Hartigan poster was found in the back room of the Weisman’s in-house storage, a duplicate is also preserved within the WAM exhibition poster collection at the Archives.


From the exhibition folder, contained in Box 9 of the WAM records at the University Archives, a draft list of exhibition hostesses was found that outlined the schedule for which “Mrs.” or “Miss” was assigned to welcome visitors. The list includes female faculty members (Jo Rollins, Katy Nash), the wives of male faculty members, as well as Liz Cless (Mrs. Howard), the daughter of former Gallery Director Ruth Lawrence, who was the co-director of The Minnesota Plan for the Continuing Education of Women at the University, and Mrs. Wilson, wife of University President O. Meredith Wilson, among others.

(click on the thumbnails below for a larger photo…)


GraceH3.jpgIn addition to attending the opening of her exhibit, the artist Grace Hartigan also gave a seminar to University students and artists the following day, as reported in a Minnesota Daily article from September 23, 1963, which was found in the Gallery press books from the 1960s (at left). The article also provided a brief description of Grace Hartigan’s work, and indicated that at the opening of the exhibit, University students and artists, “milled around, viewing and discussing the show over cookies and coffee.” Several photographs, also found within the press books, portray the milling, viewing, and discussing of the show over cookies and coffee…

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Additional photographs from the press books also likely capture the seminar that was held for students and artists the day following the exhibition opening. Though as the photographs are adhered with rubber cement to pages within the press book, and contain no captions or descriptive material, it is hard to distinguish which photographs capture which event. (Is Hartigan pictured in two different outfits within the photographs, or was she photographed with a jacket on at the same event?)

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Correspondence between the artist and University Gallery Director Sidney Simon was also found within the exhibition folder. This letter from Simon to Hartigan expresses Simon’s thanks for her attendance at the exhibition opening, and comments upon the success of the exhibit:


*In a collections related note, the personal papers of Grace Hartigan are preserved at the Syracuse University Library.

University Gallery Silk Screen Process

Long considered as a commercial method of print production, the silkscreen process received a new appreciation in the mid-1930s, when artist Anthony Velonis, tasked by New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia with a project to promote the city government, embraced the silkscreen method to produce posters that publicized administrative projects in the city. Velonis’s publicity work precipitated the Works Progress Administration (WPA) poster division, and also lead to the establishment of the silkscreen process as a fine art form, termed the “serigraph.” (Read more about Velonis and view posters produced by the WPA Poster Division from the collection of the Library of Congress.)

Cats_019_SilkScreen_1941.jpgIn February of 1941, the University Gallery held an exhibition of the silkscreen process and works created by it. An exhibition catalog (at left) was produced by the Gallery using the print method, and includes an overview of the art form, and a step-by-step description of the process. The concluding sentence of this 17 page catalog simply states, “And now we wish you success and much pleasure in working with the silk screen process.

In a clipping from the Star Journal, titled, “Silk Screen prints at ‘U’; Watercolors Shown,” John Sherman indicated in his review of the exhibit that,

One of the solutions of the tough and two-sided problem of getting original art to the art consumer at prices he can afford to pay and at prices which keep the artist solvent, is the silk screen process… The exhibit, rounded out by specimens from eastern artists, will surprise you by the sparkle and variety of its color, and the richness of effects which can be obtained. The medium is highly flexible – few or many colors may be used, and they can be applied “as is” or in combination by means of overprinting and overlapping.

SilkScreen1.jpgIn another clipping from the Minnesota Daily titled, “Silk Screen Work Shown By Gallery,” (at left) Violet Smith reported that in addition to displaying silkscreen work by artists, the actual frame and squeegee, tools utilized in the production of silkscreen prints, were displayed in the Gallery. The artist Syd Fossum (his work “Gas House District” was part of the exhibit) gave an impromptu demonstration of the process to visitors.

University faculty, students, and Gallery employees utilized the silkscreen process to produce exhibition posters and catalogs that promoted the frequently changing exhibitions held in the Gallery. (The work of University student Homer Mitchell is outlined in a previous post.) This work was representative of the curriculum of the Department of Art, part of the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts. A 1951 Course Bulletin (available in the Digital Conservancy’s collection of Course Catalogs, Bulletins and Course Guides) reports the following design courses available to students:


Art 73f-74w-75s. Presentation Techniques. A study of the communication of visual ideas in the fields of exhibition techniques, illustration, and advertising. Source materials available in the nature and tradition and creative use of media are explored as part of the problem of organization.

Art 73f. Experiments in the Use of Wash Techniques, Ink, Gouache, Watercolor, and Other Media. Elementary problems in presentation using the limitations of the media as a starting point…

Art 74w. Discussions and Readings in Area of Visual Communication. Workshop problems in photomechanical and related print processes, air brush, and mixed graphic techniques…

Art75s. Practice in the Use of Symbols in Specific Presentation Problems and a Reconsideration of General Design Principles…