Art Enveloped in Art

As many upscale Victorian Era homes were artistically built, such structures suitably host art exhibits. And that’s particularly true of the Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin: an extravagant nineteenth century residence that encapsulates nineteenth and twentieth century artwork, with modern pieces throw in for good measure.

The museum, which resides kitty corner from a stone church, standing amongst predominately residential buildings, rises over most of its neighbors. It was erected toward the end of the 19th century, and Joseph and Mary Vilas first inhabited the home in 1893. Fixed to the Victorian mansion, a modern one story brick addition is adjoined to the house.

The current rotating exhibits, housed in the one story wing, come in two separate features; woodcut prints and wooden sculptures. The prints are mainly black on white and widely vary in subject matter, while, among the wood sculptures, top billing belongs to a cabinet constructed of an old factory’s remains.

After a brief perusal, I meandered towards the portion I was dying to see. It really didn’t disappoint. While some rooms seem part of an elegant, but functioning, home, most of the mansion simply holds an eclectic variety of artwork, which happens to originate from a few different centuries.

Oil paintings, water colors, lithographs and other frameable pieces reside on the first floor. Some hail from the nineteenth century, and others from the twentieth. Along with the paintings, I found antique furniture, a piano, a silver collection and bronze sculptures meshing with the refined surroundings.

Upstairs, you’ll find porcelain,


and Ivory carvings…or sculptures,

I’m not really sure how to refer to them…but they’re cool!

Along with other unique donations, such as dolls and doll houses,

I found a curious room. It turns out Manitowoc has a sister city, lying clear across the globe.

Kamogawa is the name of that Japanese community, and this room highlights artwork reflective of their culture.

I’m sure I left a few things out, but these were my favorites from this particular art museum.

As for the home itself, it’s pure Victiorian Age: you know, curved banisters, leaded windows, exorbitant woodwork and the like.

This place was a treat, and, while there is a donation box, it’s free to the public. While glimpsing the artwork, I thought of the Rahr family, who had purchased the home in 1910, later donating it for the purpose of a museum. And I tried to forget Joseph Vilas, who met a dark and tragic end.

Yet, I wound up trying to imagine those that lived in this upscale house. Were they proud of this place? Were the children dying to grow up and leave it behind? Wandering the halls alone, I had no way of truly knowing. Instead, I was left wondering if the artwork that fills these corridors reflects their souls?

Safe Travels!

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