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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008

A Woman in Retrospect

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Twentieth-century art as defined through one woman’s perspective is on tap at the “Wisconsin Master’s Series: H.S. Moynihan (1902-1994)” exhibition, opening at the Charles Allis Art Museum on Dec. 16. This significant retrospective presents 55 oils, watercolors and graphite and charcoal drawings by the Iowa-born Moynihan, completed from 1920 through 1994. Helen Schadel Moynihan used the initials H.S. to promote herself in an era dominated by male artists. She studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the school at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to Milwaukee upon her marriage in 1920. Moynihan painted through an array of 20th-century art movements, from Impressionism through Fauvism, Cubism and Social Realism, demonstrating a proficient range of expression through portraiture, landscape and still life. These themes also detail her adopted Wisconsin home through rural images of the Kettle Moraine, compositions of Sendik’s produce or scenes of fishing boats off Lake Michigan’s shore. A vibrant color palette permeates this entire collection, frequently in pure primary hues. Her son, Paul Moynihan, remembers his childhood home “was always full of painters, making growing up an interesting and exciting time.” He recalls that his mother’s political reflections were manifest in her social realism artwork from the 1930s and ’40s, including the 1942 oil Crown of Thorns. This breakfast setting composed of an egg, eggcup and the prickly crown of thorns painted before Roosevelt’s third term visualized the impending World War II conflicts. He recalls that his mother was “painting all over the house. She followed the light wherever it was. You learned to get out of the way of your mother and her easel.” This daily work environment encouraged her children in the idea that art was necessary to living. Each child developed a creative career. Sons Frank and Paul produce films and videos in New York and the Midwest, respectively, while her daughter, Sister Jeanne Moynihan, holds a doctorate in art history. All three will attend the reception on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. H.S. Moynihan was an inspired woman determined to pursue her passion for profession and family, a struggle infinitely relevant in the 21st century. Two additional seasonal events offer art adventures this weekend: On Friday evening, Dec. 14, the Museum of Wisconsin Art participates in “Winter on Main” in downtown West Bend. On Saturday, Dec. 15, Historic Downtown Waukesha hosts a “Holiday Art Party” from noon to 8 p.m.
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