Wiechmanns to donate collection of French poster art to Art Museum

New curator hired to oversee collection, develop major exhibition

Jules Chéret, Bal du Moulin Rouge, 1889, Lithograph,.

Milwaukee developer James Wiechmann and his wife Susee Wiechmann have promised to donate a collection of more than 500 works created by famed French painter and lithographer Jules Chéret to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The couple has also agreed to assume financial responsibility for the salary of a new curator hired to oversee the collection.

“Susee and I are thrilled to add our Jules Chéret poster collection to the museum’s treasures where it can be shared by all,” James Wiechmann said. “These posters that lit up the streets of Paris in the late 1800s will now shine in the galleries of our Milwaukee Art Museum and those of other museums as they are exhibited around the country.”

Chéret, considered by many the father of modern poster design, was a master of Belle Époque poster art in France. The success of his work is credited with inspiring the later works of artists Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard.

“The gift encompasses the full range of Chéret’s innovative output from his bold, expressive posters advertising theatrical events, social gatherings and a myriad of products; to designs for book covers and menus; to intimate lithographic studies of his models,” Milwaukee Art Museum representatives wrote in a statement announcing the donation.

The Wiechmanns, who have an extensive collection of poster works from that time period, lent pieces to the Art Museum in 2012 that were featured in its Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries exhibition.

The curator hired to oversee the collection beginning in February is named Britany Salsbury. Her title will be associate curator of prints and drawings.

Britany Salsbury.
Britany Salsbury

Salsbury has been a curatorial fellow in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs department of the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design since 2015. While in Rhode Island, she worked on a major exhibition that will open in June titled “Altered States: Etching in Late 19th Century Paris.”

She has also developed several other exhibitions and instructed classes on the history of works on paper at the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University. Prior to her role in Rhode Island, Salsbury held positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. She also previously worked at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“I am excited and honored to join the Milwaukee Art Museum,” Salsbury said. “I look forward to being part of the museum’s exceptional team, and to exploring its impressive works on paper collection–especially at a moment when the Wiechmanns’ generous gift brings a renewed focus to the history of prints.”

In her new role at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Salsbury will oversee the Chéret collection as well as the museum’s current collection of works on paper. Those works include examples of German expressionism, French printmaking from the 16th through 19th centuries and the Landfall Press archive.

“We look forward to welcoming Britany as an integral part of the museum’s curatorial team,” said Art Museum director Marcelle Polednik. “In addition to managing our works on paper collection, her extensive experience makes her the perfect person to catalog and develop a major exhibition based on the Chéret gift.”

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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