'Blue House, Munich' finds new home
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A family of Iowa natives that has been sharing and caring for an original Grant Wood painting for seven decades is now sharing that painting with Iowans and all who visit the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA).
Blue House, Munich, an oil on board painting that Wood completed in 1928, most likely when he was living for three months in Munich, Germany, has been donated to the UIMA by Catharine Miller Ahmann and Edward J. Ahmann, Dorothy Miller Brecunier and Richard W. Brecunier, and Theza L. Miller and Robert S. Miller.
The painting is now on view at the UIMA@IMU, located in the third floor Richey Ballroom of the UI’s Iowa Memorial Union. UI Professor of Art Joni Kinsey will present a talk about the painting at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 14, in the IMU's Black Box Theater as part of the UI School of Art and Art History’s Grant Wood Symposium 2012.
“This is a beautiful early painting by Wood, and we are deeply indebted to the Miller family for their very generous and kind gift,” says Sean O’Harrow, UIMA director. “Blue House, Munich is a significant addition to the UI Museum of Art’s collection of works by Grant Wood and other early 20th century American artists. We look forward to sharing it with the citizens of Iowa and a worldwide audience.”
Dorothy Miller Brecunier, who now lives in California, recalled that her father, Robert J. Miller, purchased the painting directly from Grant Wood in the early 1930s. “He selected Blue House, Munich from several paintings that Wood pulled from beneath a bed in his studio” at 5 Turner Alley in Cedar Rapids, she said.
The painting hung for many years in the Cedar Rapids and California homes of Robert J. and Dorothy Miller. Since 1992, when Blue House, Munich became the property of the Millers’ three children, Dorothy, Catharine, and Robert S., it has rotated every two years among the three households.
The family has strong ties to the UI, which was one of the reasons they donated the painting to the UIMA, Mrs. Miller Brecunier says. Among the Miller children and their spouses, there are five UI graduates and each family has one child with a UI degree.
Another reason for the gift: “My mother was a very good friend of Leone Elliott,” Mrs. Miller Brecunier explains. It was Cedar Rapids residents Leone and Owen Elliott who helped create the UIMA by donating their 1,200-piece art collection to the UI with the stipulation that it have a permanent home. That challenge led directly to a fundraising campaign that resulted in building the UIMA’s first building on the UI campus on the west side of the Iowa River.
Art historians believe that Grant Wood completed about 20 paintings in 1928 during the three months he lived in Munich, Germany, when he was occupied with the design and manufacture of the stained glass mural Veteran’s Memorial Window in Cedar Rapids, says Kathleen Edwards, UIMA chief curator.
Blue House, Munich was included in the 2004 Cedar Rapids Museum of Art exhibition Grant Wood’s Studio: Birthplace of American Gothic.