Originally, I was going to write about one of our paintings that are a bit more nationally known. I had heard through the grapevine that one of our beloved concierges, Peter Mortensen, knew a great back story on the piece I wanted to blog about. After lingering around the lobby for a bit I finally caught Peter at a free moment to ask him about this infamous story. His response was something along the lines of “Well…that one does have a good story, but can I tell you about the Lorenz?” Of course I was immediately intrigued. Peter is a wealth of knowledge; having worked at the Pfister for 20 plus years, he knows this art collection like the back of his hand. No matter if you are a guest, local or a random passerby coming to view the grandiose hotel lobby, if Peter has a free moment, stop by to pick his brain.
We went up to the 2nd floor mezzanine to a painting titled “Sunday Afternoon” by Richard Lorenz. A picturesque scene of three people riding in a horse and buggy, dressed in their Sunday best enjoying the countryside; a painting I may have chose to blog about in the Spring. From my research I knew Lorenz was recruited to come to America (Milwaukee specifically) from Germany as he was a proficient panorama artist. When he came to the states, Milwaukee was known as the “Hollywood of Panoramas”. Boasting two major studios, a fair number of famous American panoramas were created here. Unlike most artists who were brought to America, Lorenz decided to stay. He fell in love with the American West and is considered to be one of the most well known Western genre painters of his time. He had is studio in the Mitchell Building on Michigan Ave from 1898 until his death in 1915. Also, he often displayed his artwork at the famous Layton Art Gallery which was not too far from the Pfister.
What I did not know however was that half of the year he spent here in Milwaukee, teaching and mentoring students as well as taking on commissions. The other half of the year he would spend out West sketching, painting and gathering inspiration. Peter informed me that each year, he would hop on a train, take it as far West as he could and from their get a couple of pack mules and head out into the unknown. Imagine, being able to explore the untouched landscape of the American West and having the ability to record it through artistic expression.
Unlike his more famous Western scenes, this particular painting was done locally, a little north of the city. The two girls in the painting were daughters of the Memler Family. Their parents ran a Gasthaus/Beer Garden in the city and their mother (in Peter’s words) was an unofficial “den mother” to new artists that were coming into the city. The Memler’s would often times let them stay at their house until they could get on their feet find a place to live. Another interesting fact is that one can most assuredly say that Charles Pfister and Richard Lorenz had some kind of personal interaction; he may have even commissioned the painting for the collection. The story behind the story is what I love to learn about and I hope you enjoyed this snippet of Peter’s knowledge as much as I did.
Please stop by to see one of Peter’s best loved paintings in the Pfister! The new self guided tour should be rolling out soon…keep checking back with us for updates. In the meantime we still encourage guests and non-guests alike to come view or fabulous collection!