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Grohmann Museum

1000 N. Broadway
Milwaukee  Wisconsin  53202
United States
(414) 277-2300
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Midwest Living Review

Catey Sullivan
Appropriate to its location in the Milwaukee School of Engineering, this museum's art collection examines work.

Befitting a gallery sitting between classrooms and administrative offices in a college engineering school, the Grohmann Museum is dedicated to the concept of work. There are more than 8,700 paintings and sculptures, dating from the 1600s through the 1900s, with fascinating images and sculptures depicting everything from 17th-century cranial surgery (yikes!) to 1940s welders working in fiery furnaces.

Themed exhibits occupy three floors: Iron and Steel on the first, Agriculture and Construction on the second, and Craftsmen and Intellectual Trades on the top floor, where docents suggest you start. (A rooftop sculpture garden is open during warmer weather.) Vibrant stained-glass recreations of popular paintings serve as colorful focal points throughout the museum.

The displays about doctors of centuries past offer shocking appreciation for modern-day medicine. If you dare, check out the paintings of surgeries, most of which capture looks of screaming horror on patients’ faces. Also moving are the paintings of 19th-century women and children working in mills—the sweatshops of the era. The monotony of the labor is palpable, and the presence of children in the paintings is heartbreaking. Finally, don’t miss the agricultural images, capturing the back-breaking labor of harvesting potatoes and bundling wheat sheaves. General museum admission is $5.

Visited: 
February 9, 2013

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