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Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010

Charles Allis Art Museum Honors Bruno Ertz

Art Review

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Birds and insects largely disappear during the winter months, but the Charles Allis Art Museum transports these creatures back to Milwaukee as it honors an exceptional state artist in “Wisconsin Masters: Bruno Ertz.”

Manitowoc-born Bruno Ertz (1873-1956) began his art career at age 13 after receiving a watercolor tin filled with bright, primary paints. From that time forward watercolor painting became a vital part of his life. His interest in the natural world is reflected in the subjects of his paintings.

The exhibition’s watercolors on paper remain in extraordinary condition, glowing with a luminous quality rarely seen in renderings of biological species. By placing a subject on a lone spare branch or in an abstract, atmospheric setting, Ertz makes his birds and insects appear timeless, as they transcend the moments in which they actually lived.

Ertz captures these creatures with exacting detail, down to the tiny hairs that are visible on antennae or wings. His depictions of insects approaching a flower for pollen demonstrate extraordinary precision and delicacy.

Ertz painted a majority of the images in the exhibition between 1900 and 1920, a time in which he was especially prolific. Two small watercolors dated 1913, Dragonfly and Luna Moth,portray insects in aquamarine, pale blue, soft green and turquoise hues that impart an ethereal quality. Corydalis (1911) shares similar characteristics; its exquisite coloring is worthy of extended viewing.

Ertz skillfully combines an empathetic vision of the natural world with hyper-realistic watercolor techniques. The Charles Allis Art Museum showcases these Wisconsin treasures through Jan. 9, 2011.