MSOE Exhibit Reveals The Industrial Landscapes Of Twentieth-Century Germany

Sep 4, 2014

Copper Mill at Duisburg on Rhine River by Erich Mercker

A new book and exhibit at the Milwaukee School of Engineering examines the work of 20th century German industrial painters.

The Grohmann Musuem on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering opened its doors in 2007. The museum houses around a thousand European and American paintings, sculptures and works on paper dedicated to depicting human industry – quite literally men and women at work – and it’s one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind.

Almost immediately upon its opening, the museum came under fire for including works of the 20th century German landscape painter and industrial artist Erich Mercker, without duly noting Mercker’s involvement with the Nazi party. That controversy set Dr. Patrick Jung on a scholastic quest to find out more about Mercker and other industrial artists working in Germany at the time.

The result is a newly published book, Erich Mercker and Technical Subjects, the first scholarly examination of Mercker’s life and art.

“Just by selling paintings to the Nazi state [Mercker] lent an era of legitimacy to that state, despite the fact that he knew that thousands of artists were denied an ability to make a living because they were avant-garde,” says author, and MSOE associate professor of General Studies, Dr. Patrick Jung.  

The Grohmann Musuem exhibition, Erich Mercker: Painter of Industry, opens Friday and runs through mid-December. Jung, along with the executive director of the Grohmann Museum, James Kieselburg, spoke with Lake Effect’s Bonnie North.