The French Con­nec­tion

A cou­ple’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with posters has given rise to a com­mu­nity trea­sure.

Milwaukee Magazine - - Culture -

IN 1983, JIM AND SUSEE WIECHMANN were strolling through San Fran­cisco’s Ghi­rardelli Square when a piece of art caught their eye. It was a poster by the 19th Cen­tury French artist Jules Cheret, who was “the fa­ther of ad­ver­tis­ing that brought color and form to the block let­ter for-sale and for-rent signs,” Jim says. And “he treated women beau­ti­fully,” show­ing them as fun-lov­ing crea­tures who could play mu­sic, dance or en­joy a cig­a­rette – a novel idea at the time – Jim says. Susee was al­ready col­lect­ing art by Wis­con­sin women, so the cou­ple be­gan to pur­chase Cheret posters as well, more than 500 of them, filling up their East Side Vic­to­rian home and their chil­dren’s houses. In 2012, the Wiech­manns loaned 18 of the posters to the Mil­wau­kee Art Mu­seum, which held a pop­u­lar “Posters of Paris” ex­hibit, and in Jan­uary, MAM an­nounced that the Wiech­manns had gifted the en­tire col­lec­tion, giv­ing MAM the largest re­serve of Cheret’s works out­side of Paris. “When we do an ac­qui­si­tion like this, we’re build­ing the fu­ture of Mil­wau­kee as a ma­jor cul­tural repository,” says Mar­celle Poled­nik, MAM direc­tor. While that was part of the Wiech­manns’ in­ten­tion, the other was prac­ti­cal: They’re mov­ing to an apart­ment Down­town and won’t have the space they once had.

Cheret’s posters (above and left) are known for both pi­o­neer­ing color lithog­ra­phy and at­tract­ing a wide range of fa­mous art col­lec­tors and fans, in­clud­ing Monet and De­gas.

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