New collections: Marjorie Kreilick Papers | Smithsonian Voices


Marjorie Kreilick, comic with material samples attached for burning meadows, mosaic mural located on the seventh floor of the Wisconsin State Office Building, Milwaukee, WI, ca. 1961–63. Articles by Marjorie Kreilick, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Marjorie Kreilick (b. 1925) is a key figure in the development of public art and mosaics in the 20th century. Primarily located in the Midwest, his extant works include an ambitious project of ten murals created on ten floors of the Wisconsin State Office Building in Milwaukee (completed in 1963). His articles feature great cartoons for this project and others. These preparatory materials not only provide information about color, form, and scale, but are also often accompanied by material samples of his tesserae, small pieces of stone and glass. These materials feature prominently in many photographs of Kreilick posed and at work in his studio. His articles also contain extensive notes on mosaic materials, including lists of products used, suppliers, and annotated diagrams.

Kreilick’s interest in mosaics was cemented during an apprenticeship in Rome. She maintained a studio in the Italian capital from 1961 to 1963 and was awarded the Rome Prize for Painting in 1963. Items include photographs and other material from this period. This brief but intensive immersion in Italian mosaic practices informed the many public mosaics she created throughout her career, and Kreilick continued to source from Italian producers long after her return to the United States. . The articles contain printed material from these and other commercial vendors, a particularly useful source for future restorers of his work. Kreilick joined the Italy-based International Association of Contemporary Mosaicists in 1983, although she has no current members to cite as references on her application. The papers contain dozens of documents related to the organization, a testament to its investment not only in mosaic craftsmanship, but in the international community that supported it.


Marjorie Kreilick in her studio, ca. 1980. Gelatin silver print. Unknown photographer. Articles by Marjorie Kreilick, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Kreilick retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Art in 1991, after a 38-year career teaching generations of artists about painting and sculpture and developing curricula focused on making implementing health and safety best practices across all media. Among his many students was glass artist Marvin Lipofsky, who discusses Kreilick in his 2003 oral history interview for the Archives. Kreilick’s items directly related to his teaching—primarily lecture notes and associated slide carousels—are held in the university’s special collections.

In addition to architecturally situated large-scale murals, Kreilick created free-standing mosaic artwork on the scale of typical easel paintings. The articles contain studies for these, including a bozzetto project for a round work composed of abstract waveforms. The Chazen Museum of Art in Madison acquired key examples of these works around the same time the Kreilick papers were donated to the Archives.

The Kreilick Papers were closely researched and organized by researcher and artist Lillian Sizemore, who, along with Kreilick’s lawyer, friend and colleague, William “Bill” Whitford, oversaw the donation on the artist’s behalf. In her writings and public presentations, Sizemore associates Kreilick with other significant mid-twentieth-century female artists working in public art. Among them, let us note Hildreth Meière, whose many documents are also in the Archives.

This text originally appeared in the Fall 2022 (Vol. 61, No. 2) issue of American Art Journal Archive.


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