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A detail of "The Bookworm," by German painter Carl Spitzweg, in the MPL collection.
A detail of "The Bookworm," by German painter Carl Spitzweg, in the MPL collection.

MPL gets the go ahead to discuss lending "The Bookworm" to Grohmann

The Milwaukee Public Library's Board of Trustees has green-lighted discussions between the library and the Grohmann Museum, 1000 N. Broadway, at Milwaukee School of Engineering, that could bring $1 million to MPL in exchange for loaning Carl Spitzweg's painting, "The Bookworm," to the museum permanently.

If the deal is sealed, MPL cardholders would gain free access to the museum during specified times.

The motion approved by the board reads: "The library staff and the city attorney’s office will formally enter into negotiations with the Grohmann Museum to provide greater access and resources to support the conservation of "The Bookworm." The framework for the negotiations, as directed by the Board of Trustees, include an institutional loan agreement granting free access to Milwaukee Public Library cardholders; the Grohmann will maintain, protect, preserve and secure the painting; the Grohmann and MPL will work together on a display sharing the history of the painting, its provenance and its impact; and, finally a gift of $1 million will be made to MPL."

The 1851 oil painting (on canvas) by the German artist -- one of three versions of the same subject -- was gifted in a bequest to MPL by René Von Schleinitz in 1972. Other than a few stints away on loan, the painting has been a fixture in the library's Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room.

The first version of the painting, made in 1850, is in the collection of the Museum Georg Schäfer in Schweinfurt. A third version was made in 1884.

The Grohmann Museum, founded with the collection of Milwaukee industrialist, art collector and MSOE benefactor Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, boasts more than 1,000 paintings and sculptures from 1580 to the present. The collection, called "Man at Work," focuses on industrial scenes and other images of working people laboring in a variety of ways.

The MPL painting would join other works by the artist in a Carl Spitzweg Gallery.

Any final deal will have to be approved by the library's board of trustees.


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