Tuesday – September 30, 2014

 

Kronquist Artistry Lives on at Downtown Milwaukee Campus

May 2010

Thousands of instructors have walked the halls of Milwaukee Area Technical College since its founding nearly a century ago. While they all shaped the careers and touched the lives of their students, there is very little tangible evidence left of the work of the earliest instructors. Emil F. Kronquist is the exception to that rule. His intricate silver and bronze work lives on in the hallways, President's Office, Distric Board Room and a jewelry-making classroom, all in the Main Building at the Downtown Milwaukee Campus.

Kronquist, a successful silversmith in Europe, began teaching mechanical drawing and art metal classes at Milwaukee Continuation School in 1913. Milwaukee Continuation School was MATC's earliest incarnation, which was founded in 1912. Kronquist continued to teach at MATC until he retired in 1951.

He was born in Sweden in 1882 and grew up in Denmark. As a young man, he worked as an apprentice silversmith and metal chaser in the same shop with Georg Jensen, an artisan who would later become famous in Europe. Jensen has been described as "the Tiffany of silver."

After serving five years as an apprentice in Copenhagen, Kronquist submitted a vase as an entrance piece to the local guild and won a $300 stipend. He then worked in London for a time. Legend has it that he traveled to the U.S. in 1904 because he was entranced with advertising for the World's Fair hosted in St. Louis. He remained in the U.S. for the rest of his career. Kronquist worked for a jeweler in Chicago for a several years, and in 1907 was asked to set up a "manual training department" at the schools in Guthrie, Oklahoma Schools. Two years later, he set up a similar department at Northeastern State Normal College in Tahlequah, Okla.

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Silversmith Shelly Culea poses with pieces of the Kronquist collection in the District Board Room. Culea recently cleaned and cataloged the collection donated by Emil F. Kronquist. She is holding displays of Kronquist's jewelry and a crucifix.


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Kronquist created a bronze plaque with the likeness of Dr. Robert L. Cooley, president of the Milwaukee Continuation School, MATC's predecessor. It is on display on the second floor of the Main Building at the Milwaukee Campus.

 Kronquist Became One of School's First Instructors

Soon after that, Robert L. Cooley founded the Milwaukee Continuation School, which was a pioneering development in adult education, destined to eventually become the Milwaukee Vocational School and later Milwaukee Area Technical College. Cooley asked Kronquist to start a "manual training course" at the Continuation School. By 1913, Kronquist became part of the school's first faculty, teaching mechanical drawing and art metal classes until his retirement in 1951.

 In 1959, Kronquist donated his entire collection of personal metal artworks to MATC, including his own pieces, work by Georg Jensen and by others trained by Jensen. Kronquist's brother Oscar was said to have worked for Jensen all his life, so it is possible that some of the Jensen pieces originally belonged to Oscar. The donation came to be known as "The Emil F. Kronquist Collection."

From 1960-1980, the collection was on display five days a week in a small gallery on the sixth floor of MATC's Main Building. When the price of silver skyrocketed in 1979 and 1980, the gallery was closed and most of the collection was put in storage due to security concerns. Recently, the college requested local silversmith Shelly Culea to clean, label and organize the collection.

"It was an honor for me to work these treasures. You don't see work like that anymore."

--Shelly Culea

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Many silver pieces made by Kronquist are on display in the District Board Room.

Collection on Display in Milwaukee Campus Main Building

Most of the collection is now safely on display in cases in the District Board Room. Pieces include a coffee service, a chalice, flatware, candle holders and candle snuffers, vases, candy bowls, salad bowls, a compote, candelabra, numerous commemorative spoons, pitchers and a variety of jewelry. Interested parties may make an appointment with the President's Office (414-297-6322) to see the collection.

During his lifetime, Kronquist published seven books on the metalwork for craftsmen, mechanical drawing and metalworking and jewelry. All are out of print now, but copies are also on display in the Board Room.

Pieces of Kronquist's bronze artwork are also available for viewing. There is a bronze likeness of President Cooley and a tribute to World War I soldiers, both in showcases in the halls of the second floor of the Main Building. The President's Office houses a large sundial made for Cooley.

In Room M501 of the Main Building, where jewelry students still train, there are numerous casts and photographs created by Kronquist which show the different stages of metal working involved in creating works in silverware, bowls, a chalice and intricate designs made in metal. The display boards show the process of chasing and repousse, which represent ways of embossing or pressing shapes into malleable metal.

Few people work with chasing and repousee nowadays, but MATC jewelry student Bob Flesch still does some of the fine artwork. He enjoys examining the display boards created by Kronquist. "They're an inspiration to me," he said. "I'm a guy who learns by looking at things to see how it's done."

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Kronquist created a display demonstrating how to make ornamental borders using an ancient form of casting called cire perdue.


The Kronquist collection was on exhibit at Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee for a short time in 1997, but other than that, most of it has not been available for viewing since the early '80s.

"It's so wonderful that this outstanding collection is now available for everyone to see," said Culea. "It was an honor for me to work with these treasures. You don't see work like this anymore."

 

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Kronquist created many displays of various steps in metalwork as visual aids for his students. Shown here are examples of how flatware, a teapot and a chalice are created. They are on display in the jewelry making classroom in Room 501 of the Milwaukee Campus' Main Building.

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A bronze sundial, made for Robert L. Cooley, is on display in the President's Office. The idea for the sundial was created by a student, and Kronquist executed the design.