Warehouse Art Museum’s New Exhibition Highlights an Artist Born 111 Years Ago

‘Rediscovering Ruth Grotenrath: All Things Belong to This Earth’ runs through March 31 at Warehouse Art Museum.

Rediscovering Ruth Grotenrath: All Things Belong to This Earth showcases the life work of prolific Milwaukee artist Ruth Grotenrath. The exhibition is her first ever major solo retrospective, running through March 31 at the Warehouse Art Museum.

Grotenrath, who was born in Milwaukee in 1912 and passed in 1988, had a 50-year career in the arts, creating dozens if not hundreds of paintings, prints and textile pieces. She worked closely with Gustave Moeller, Robert von Neumann and Elsa Ulbricht and was friends with a variety of influential creatives including Frank Lloyd Wright.

The exhibit will feature some of Grotenrath’s never-before-seen artworks, across all the mediums she’s practiced. Art from her husband, another famed Wisconsin artist named Schomer Lichtner, will also be featured. Rediscovering Ruth Grotenrath is free to visitors, and includes a variety of programming related to Grotenrath and her life. The Warehouse Art Museum will host a lecture from Kay Wells, professor of American art at UW-Milwaukee, discussing prominent women artists of the 20th century and keepsakes from her personal life including reflections of Grotenrath’s diary. 

Opening Reception
The Warehouse Art Museum, “Rediscovering Ruth Grotenrath”; Photo Courtesy of The Warehouse Art Museum

 

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Grotenrath’s early art, which largely focuses on still lifes of florals, kitchens, pets and other snapshots of a home life, was influenced by the styles of Matisse and Van Gogh. She was a part of the Social Realist art movement of the 1920s-30s, a movement that “could fight the capitalist exploitation of workers and stem the advance of international fascism” through the exploration of the everyday life of lower and working classes. Over the years her style transformed, working with brighter colors and eventually influenced by Japanese art after a trip she took to Japan in the 1960s

Ruth Grotenrath, Yuki, ca. 1970; Casein on paper; Photo by Avery Pelekoudas; Photo courtesy of The Warehouse Art Museum

Despite her work taking her all over the nation, she lived her entire life in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. She attended Riverside High School where she first started exploring her artistic talent. She received her B.A. at the Milwaukee State Teachers College, which transformed into UW-Milwaukee several years later. She even taught at the Layton School of Art, which according to the Wisconsin Historical Society was one of the most progressive art schools in the United States, pioneering several movements in art education. She went on to teach at UW-Milwaukee and The Clearing in Door County. 

Grotenrath’s extensive collection of art can be found in every major Wisconsin art museum. Her works are also displayed in museums across the United States, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Richmond Museum of Art (Virginia), and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Philadelphia).

Ruth Grotenrath, Meadow (Lorrie Otto’s Garden), 1970; Oil on linen 40 x 30 in.; Photo by Avery Pelekoudas; Photo courtesy of The Warehouse Art Museum

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