George Mann Niedecken (1878 - 1945)

Birth date: 8/16/1878 Death date: 11/3/1945  
Birth location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Death location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin  
Media: Architecture , Decorative Art , Furniture , Interior Design , Mural Web site:
Comprehensive (file rating) - Major Wisconsin artist file that includes comprehensive documentation on artist's life that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

One of the 2007 recipients of Wisconsin Visual Arts Lifetime Achievement Award (WVALAA). By the age of 12, he began to take classes at the Art Institute of Chicago to study decorative art under Louis Millet. Studied art in Berlin, Austria, Paris, England and Italy. 1902: taught a class in decorative arts at the Wisconsin School of Arts. 1907: opened Niedecken-Walbridge Company, Interior Architects. 1932: elected to the presidency of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Institute of Interior Decorators. Was a collaborator with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Biography

George Mann Niedecken

Born 1878 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died 1945 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

George Niedecken was a painter, muralist, and teacher, but best known for his interior architecture and design. A Milwaukee native, he studied with Richard Lorenz at the city’s Wisconsin Art Institute before becoming a founding member of the Milwaukee Art Student’s League together with the famed American photographer Edward Steichen in 1894. This was followed by study at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, under the guidance of Louis Millet before embarkation on a grand tour of Europe between 1899 and 1902. Once there, he studied with architect Otto Wagner in Vienna and printmaker Alphonse Mucha in Paris, the artist whose posters defined the Art Nouveau movement. He also became well acquainted with the Vienna Secessionist movement in Paris and Berlin, his studies facilitated by his fluent German.

Upon his return to Milwaukee, in 1903 Niedecken began teaching decorative design courses for architects and designers at the Milwaukee Art Students League. F or a fifteen year span ending in 1918 he collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright, whom he had met in Chicago, and this acquaintanceship saw Niedecken work on numerous Wright projects including the Dana, Robie, Coonley, and Tomek houses. One project Niedecken worked on was the commissioned mural painting for the Dana-Thomas house in Springfield, Illinois. In 1907 Niedecken and his brother-in-law, John S. Walbridge Jr. formed the Niedecken-Walbridge Company of Milwaukee, going on to make many pieces of custom furniture for Wright’s Prairie-style houses. However, Neidecken was more than a furniture designer: he was a pioneer in the field of interior decoration, creating draperies, light fixtures, and murals as well as furniture. Niedecken adopted the European Arts and Crafts philosophy of total design, translating it into a uniquely American style. “The fitness of a thing is quite as important as the design,” Niedecken said.

Throughout his career Niedecken was loyal to his home state, being a member and president (in 1913) of the Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors (previously known as the Society of Milwaukee Artists of which he was a member since 1903).  He taught as well as a trustee for the Milwaukee Art Institute and the President of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Institution of Interior Decorators. In 2007 he was one of the recipients of  the Wisconsin Visual Arts Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

1981               Milwaukee Art Museum, Niedecken Retrospective

Selected Group Exhibitions

1898 & 1912   Chicago Architecture Club

1902 & 1912   Society of Milwaukee Artists

1935               Milwaukee School of Art

© 10/23/2007 Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, Wisconsin                                                              6/2/2010

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