Rare, unseen Gag art on exhibit

NEW ULM – To commemorate the 120th birthday of renowned local artist Wanda Gag, the Brown County Historical Society Museum will feature a new show of Gag’s work, including rare and previously never shown pieces.

The exhibit opens with a reception 5-7 p.m. on Friday, March 8, at the Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) Museum.

The exhibit pools works from several sources – private collectors, the Gag estate, the City of New Ulm, Brown County Historical Society and Wanda Gag House collections – to display lithography, chalks, pastels, woodcuts, early and commercial work such as place holders for birthday parties and posters, a rare hologram, a story book written in childhood, an important portrait and a self-portrait, never-seen sandpapers from private collections and works done in color, an unusual technique for Gag.

Several threads are reflected in the organization of the exhibit. Its storyline takes the viewer from Gag’s early, pre-art school days, into and through, adulthood. The art is also shown off in part by medium, in part by collection origin.

One section contains a letter to nephew Gary Harm (whose family has provided a number of the works for the show); another shines a light on the Biebl farm (the farm of Gag’s maternal grandparents, the Biebls, was featured in her works “Grandma’s Parlor” and “Grandma’s Kitchen”).

The exhibit importantly devotes a section to the 50-plus-piece City of New Ulm collection.

The city was gifted the collection by the now defunct local chapter of the American Association of University Women. The BCHS stored the collection for the city for years.

Some of about 30 originally framed pieces in this collection, as well as about 10 reproductions, have been seen by the public in the past; however, most of the originally unframed pieces have never been publicly shown.

As funding from grants has become available over the past 10-15 years, each piece in this collection has been restored, re-matted and re-hinged. The forthcoming show will provide the first chance for a public viewing of the completed restoration work.

Lithographs, childhood prints, pastels, chalks and woodcuts from the BCHS collection will also be shown. Some of these works were last shown in an exhibit that commemorated Gag’s 100th birthday in 1993, said museum employees.

An interesting artifact, the stove from Gag’s studio at All Creation in Milford, N.J., has been gifted to the BCHS and will complement the exhibit.

An educational piece that reaches out to children (and others) will accompany the exhibit, with a children’s program on Saturday, March 9. Educational kits, developed in the past decade or so, will be shown. The kits lead students through Gag’s art and life and can be checked out by teachers.

The exhibit will run until some time in November.

Gag was born March 11, 1893.

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