The University of Wisconsin Press
History / Museum Studies / American Studies / Architecture / Wisconsin
An Historic American Art Collection, 1888–2013
John C. Eastberg and Eric Vogel
Before Carnegie and Frick or Whitney and Guggenheim, there was Frederick Layton and the story of how he created a new art museum experience in America.
Frederick Layton (1827–1919) was among the very first art collectors in America to fund a purpose-built civic art gallery for the public's use and enjoyment. Second only to the 1874 Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the 1888 Layton Art Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, presented a new model for the single-patron art museum in America, one significantly different from the established museums of Boston and New York. Frederick Layton and his British architect George Audsley developed a new vision for a more intimate art museum experience. They drew upon their knowledge of English precedents to create a refined, single-story, top-lit, urban gallery that would influence the development of the American art museum well into the twentieth century.
Layton's Legacy draws on a recently discovered archive of Layton family papers, travel journals, and vintage photographs and on five years of extensive archival research in the United States and Great Britain. Historian John C. Eastberg traces the trajectory of the collection's development from its English origins through its grand European acquisitions, Gilded Age art auctions in New York, Progressive-era renovations, postwar deaccessions, and demolition of the original gallery, all leading to a new era of curatorial innovation and major American art acquisitions at the end of the twentieth century. Architect Eric Vogel looks more closely at the architectural history of the original Layton Art Gallery and its influence on the continuing lineage of the single-patron art museum. Together, they tell a fascinating story of significant people and events in the world of art, architecture, art education, exhibit design, and American museum history.
Layton's Legacy also includes the first fully illustrated documentation of the entire 125-year history of the Layton Art Collection, demonstrating its formative place in the development of the American art museum. It includes object entries from more than twenty scholars of American and European painting, furniture, and decorative art and features the works of artists Eastman Johnson, Winslow Homer, Frederick Church, Thomas Cole, Bastien Lepage, William Bourguereau, James Tissot, Frederic Leighton, and Alma Tadema, among many others. Eminent scholars of nineteenth-century art, Dianne Macleod and Giles Waterfield, contribute forewords.
“What started as a collection of established nineteenth-century European paintings and sculpture, with select American and English paintings, has expanded over the years to include premier examples of early American and British decorative arts as well as vitally important works of twentieth-century American furniture and contemporary art. This publication offers a fascinating glimpse into the origin and evolution of the Layton Art Collection.”—Jon Prown, executive director and chief curator of the Chipstone Foundation
John C. Eastberg, a historian of the art and architecture of the American Gilded Age, is senior historian at the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His books include Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion: An Illustrated History. Eric Vogel, an architect, designer, and architectural historian, is chair of the 3D Design Department at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
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440 pp. 10 1/2 x 12 1/2
400 color and b/w illus.
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This book is the companion to an exhibit, April 6–September 2, 2013, at the Milwaukee Art Museum, celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Layton Art Collection.
“The Layton Art Gallery and its founder Frederick Layton provide the missing link between the design and collecting policies of the early British art gallery and the nineteenth-century single-patron art museum in America.”
—Giles Waterfield, Courtauld Institute of Art
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Updated May 16, 2013© 2013 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System