Two Wisconsin Artists

In recent years I have become more familiar with the work of Wisconsin artists and increasingly appreciative of their artistry. I’m not an expert, but rather a “curious observer.”

Schomer Lichtner: Untitled, 1982-1987, Acrylic — Racine Art Museum, Gift of the Schomer Lichtner Trust and the Kohler Foundation, Inc. Photography: Jon Bolton, Racine

For some time I’ve been aware of Schomer Lichtner (1905-2006) and his work, but only in the most casual way. I was even less familiar with Ruth Grotenrath (1912-1988). A recent visit to the Racine Art Museum gave me the chance to get to know both of them better. That’s where a show of their work is on display through May 8.

Both were quintessential Wisconsin artists having been trained in Milwaukee’s public schools and attending the state’s public universities. Lichtner and Grotenrath married in 1934 when both were involved with Depression-era public art projects. The show includes early Regionalist style work from both artists and then follows their careers in more or less linear progression. Upon entering the upstairs gallery, the visitor goes left for Grothenrath’s work and right for Lichtner’s and meets them together again at the back of the rectangular space.

Ruth Grotenrath: Interior with Mural, 1980, Casein — Racine Art Museum, Gift of the Schomer Lichtner Trust and the Kohler Foundation, Inc. Photography: Jon Bolton, Racine

There’s a good selection of Lichtner’s brightly colored cows, the work most familiar to me, though there is much more to see. I was even less familiar with Grotenrath’s paintings and was quite taken by them, especially those with a clear Asian influence. They are detailed without being fussy and domestic without being sentimental.

I’ve been very pleased with my several visits to the Racine Art Museum and this small show was no exception.

–Michael Bridgeman

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Stacey Williams-Ng recently did a blog post about Grotenrath and Lichtner for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Art City. It’s worth reading to learn more about these two talented Wisconsin artists.

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