Heine was already a well-known artist in Dresden, Germany when he came to Milwaukee in the summer of 1885. He had been recruited by Chicago businessman William Wehner to help establish the “American Panorama Company.” In the second half of the nineteenth century, ‘panoramas’ or ‘cycloramas’ were the newest wave of art and entertainment. Huge circular buildings dominated the skyline of most major European and American cities. They exhibited 360-degree paintings that frequently covered close to 15,000 square feet of canvas, depicting mostly battle scenes, other historic or religious events, and landscapes. Sometimes called the “IMAXes of the nineteenth century,” these giant installations fell out of favor with the advent of the motion picture. Canvasses were dismantled and destroyed and the art form was largely forgotten. Scholars around the world now eagerly await Heine’s words in an accessible format to learn more about the world of panorama, the German-American art scene, the life of a German immigrant, and so much more. Members of the Friends of MKI will also find more information on the project and a detailed report on the International Panorama Symposium - that we held on November 1 at the Museum in West Bend - in the summer and winter 2008 issues of the MKI Friends newsletter.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The Diaries of Panorama Painter Friedrich Wilhelm Heine
One of the MKI’s current projects is a collaboration with the Milwaukee County Historical Society and the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend to transcribe into modern German script and eventually translate into English the diaries of German-Milwaukeean panorama painter Friedrich Wilhelm Heine. From 1879 until his death in 1921, Heine kept a most meticulous daily diary in which he recorded every aspect of his life. The diary is written in miniscule old German script that is unintelligible even to most native German speakers today. Therefore we are delighted to have received a major grant from the Milwaukee Bradley Foundation that recognizes the tremendous importance of Heine’s writings and supports the hiring of a team of transcription experts for the first phase of the project.