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Paintings depicting ‘the Fair’ are part of collection at Museum of Wisconsin Art | By Graeme Reid

West Bend, Wi – The 165th annual Washington County Fair runs July 25 – 30 and there is a unique tie to the Fair in the collection at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA), 205 veterans Avenue, in West Bend, Wi. According to Graeme Reid, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, there are two very different visions of the Fair at MOWA.

The oil on board is a 1930s painting by artist Francesco Spicuzza.  The painting is titled ‘Carnival, Wisconsin State Fair, West Allis.’

It was gifted to the Museum of Wisconsin Art, in 2006, by Marguerite Spicuzza Hambling in memory of Charles J. Schmal Jr. (Chuckie)

“Francesco Spicuzza, an immigrant to the U.S. from Italy, uses a bold, vibrant brushwork to capture the crowds and the hurly-burly of the midway as the aerial boats and fun rides compete for the visitor’s attention and money. It is a scene that is still replicated today,” said Reid.

Fun fact: Francesco Spicuzza had a summer home in West Bend, Wi.  Click HERE to read more about one of his favorite spots to paint in Washington County, WI.

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The second fair-related painting in the collection at MOWA is a 1948 piece by artist Leonard Beck. The Mixed oil media on panel is titled “Wisconsin Fair, Nostalgia.”

The piece was lent in 2004, by the Milwaukee Art Museum, and gifted by Gimbel Bros., Milwaukee.

According to Reid, “Leonard Beck, an immigrant to the US from Germany, takes the opposite tack: a smooth, almost clinical style depicts the fair as closed, a ghostly quiet has settled in.

“Gone are the crowds having used their tickets up – only a half ticket remains – indicating that a patron has come and gone.

“The attractions stand silently until the fair resumes – the next day or the next year – who knows? His work also shows some influences of surrealism which was in evidence at UW Madison through Milwaukee-natives John Wilde and Karl Priebe amongst others.”

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