“Wisconsin in Watercolor: The Farmscapes of Paul Seifert” is the newest exhibit to come to the Wisconsin Historical Museum. The collection of artwork by Seifert showcases his appreciation for the natural Wisconsin landscapes through watercolor. Located on the fourth floor of the museum, the collection is excellently curated, with touch-screen interactive features and a drawing board to keep younger visitors busy. The artwork showcases an interesting perspective on traditional farmscapes that might seem ubiquitous to Wisconsinites.
Seifert was an immigrant from Germany who settled in Wisconsin in the 1800s and painted his appreciation for the natural surroundings. This is the first large-scale exhibition of his work and focuses entirely on his interpretations of Wisconsin’s farmscapes. His paintings began as drawings; he sketched out the farmhouses, different plots of land and other natural aspects. Then he used watercolors to add detail to the painting. Each painting followed this pattern exactly, and each painting looked roughly identical in layout. The innovative aspect of his work was the usage of watercolor to provide shocks of color, rather than just blending values together.
His paintings look much more like the outlines for a farming coloring book than glorious visions of fields, which is what one typically expects from a landscape piece. The most interesting aspect of his work is the choice to use watercolors. His usage of watercolor as almost an oil paint provides a very unique perspective on a traditional subject. The variations in bright color add a differentiation from farmscape to farmscape.
The curation of the exhibition is excellent. The early stages of Seifert’s paintings are placed right next to the finished product, which is an interesting feature. The exhibit provides detailed explanations about agriculture at the time, Seifert’s inspiration and other aspects of the work.
The show presents an interesting dichotomy: the paintings are classic and folky, yet the work itself is a strange interpretation of farmscapes. His art is not the most aesthetically pleasing, but it provides a unique perspective on the customary farmscapes of the 1800s.
“Wisconsin in Watercolor: The Farmscapes of Paul Seifert” will be on exhibit from now until Aug. 30 at the Wisconsin Historical Museum.