Posted in the Waukesha County Forum
Portrait of "grandma" revealed to be a treasure
From Freeman Staff www.gmtoday.com
When Anne Atherton would look at the handsome protrait of Julia Due that hung in her home, she simply saw "Grandma."
So when she learned a famous Wisconsin painter described it as perfect female beauty, she was a bit taken aback.
The 14-inch by 12-inch oil painting was created by Merton Grenhagen of Oshkosh in the 1920's and was presented to the Oshkosh Public Museum in 1927, by the artist who described it as an "ideal of beautiful womanhood."
Last year; Atherton learned from her great-aunt, Janice Due-Pennau that the Oshkosh Public Museum was requesting the the painting be returned to the museum because it never showed the piece leaving.
Atherton said the general family consensus is that her grandfather made a donation to the museum, which never made it onto the museum's books, and acquired the painting.
"It was known he didn't like his wife on the museum's wall." Atherton said.
After learning how desirable this family's heirloom was, Atherton did a bit of researching and learned that the artist also had a crush on her grandmother, who was about 19 or 20 when the painting was done. According to a Milwaukee Journal story from February 27, 1927, Grenhagen was born in Wisconsin but studied in Paris, Philadelphia, and New York City before returning to his home state.
"His portraits of Wisconsin people are successful and a number of portraits of public pesonages hang in state universities, state capitals, and libraries." the story states.
As much as Atherton was willing to donate the painting back to the museum, she also was sad to lose it as a family heirloom because she wanted to pass it down to her niece and nephew; therefore she explored other options on how to retain the image.
"I was so conflicted. That's why I procrastinated so much," she said about why it has taken her more than a year to return the painting to the museum."It really belongs in Oshkosh."
After learning about the process of giclee, which uses sofisticated printmaking technologies to make copies of art, Anne and her husband, Tom, began to look for local businesses that could make giclee copies of the painting so the image could still remain in the family.
Their search led them to Dan Fulwiler, resident artist and production manager at Beyond Studio + Publishing, said the printer utilized for giclee uses about 5 million dots per square inch of ink to make a copy of a piece of art. The finished canvas then is covered with a protective coating, and in the case of the Athertons' painting, Fulwiler also used an enhancement technique to give the painting the appearance of brush strokes. The Athertons had three copies ofthe painting made and it took about an hour and a half per painting for the brush strokes to be duplicated.
Tom Atherton said in a way he's happy they won't have the original Grenhagen painting in their home.
"To have an original hung in the house is disconcerting, what if something happens to it?" he said.
Tom Atherton also pointed out that if anything happens to their copy, the image is backed up at Beyond Studio + Publishing in its archives. To have a giclee made is fairly inexpensive. Cost depends on the size of the image, with a medium sized giclee costing about $150 . The Athertons paid $100 per copy. The Athertons are planning to return the painting to the Oshkosh Public Museum in January.
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