Plundering the Past

This past week, I hit the creative jackpot.

No, I didn’t play the lottery or receive an inheritance. I didn’t sign a book contract or even find a forgotten wad of cash in my back pants pocket. All I did was walk a scant mile from my house on Milwaukee’s lower East Side to the Grohmann Museum. But I came back so much richer in inspiration, I could hardly carry all my winnings.

The Grohmann Museum houses the world’s foremost collection of Industrial Art. Housed on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, this four-floor museum is full of paintings (some dating as far back as the 1500s) that show human beings engaged in almost every trade.

Naturally, my interest was greatest by paintings of Industrial factories and steam-powered machinery. But I found plenty to love in every era, and I plan to use all the photos I took as inspiration for scenes in future stories, steampunk and otherwise.

In the mean time . . . have a look for yourself! And if you happen to live close enough to visit the Grohmann, by all means, do. As an artist, and an art-lover, you’ll be so much richer for it.

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6 thoughts on “Plundering the Past

    • Andrew, that’s one of my favorites, too! I love portraits that frame a whole unspoken story around the figure.

      My tip-top favorite, though, is one of those Renaissance-era renditions of ancient workers building Babel. (Can’t remember if a picture of it!)


      • There’s a picture in there that could be part of a Renaissance-era building of Babel – kind of hard to tell what they’re planning and working on. But funnily enough one of my favourite paintings growing up was also of the building of Babel. It was in the Castle Museum in Norwich, and it’s a dark, brooding canvas where the tower is a spiral ramp becoming narrower and narrower as it reaches towards heaven, with blocks still being dragged up. I think seeing Babel in progress makes a fascinating image, because for the builders it’s still all about potential and the glory of human achievement, and as viewers we know it’s all going to end badly.


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