The Flagellants 

Wisconsin’s largest painting, The Flagellants, has returned from its trip to Munich!

The Flagelannts (1889)

After nearly two years in Munich’s Haus der Kunst, The Flagellants has returned to the Museum of Wisconsin Art. This “jaw-dropping” painting triumphantly returned to its “birthplace” in Munich, Germany, after 115 years in the U.S. It was on exhibit at the city’s Haus der Kunst from May 30 to August 31, 2008, and it returned to the Museum of Wisconsin Art in May 2010. Due to the age and fragility of the painting, it will remain in its protective shipping tube until the new building is finished in 2013. The rolled-up painting is currently on display with didactic panels showing the process involved in moving the painting.

Completed in Munich between 1885 and 1889 by Milwaukee-born Marr (1858-1936), the work measures an enormous 14’ x 23’ and is one of the largest oil paintings on canvas framed in the U.S. The Flagellants has been on permanent loan from the City of Milwaukee to the Museum of Wisconsin Art since 1976.

The story of the painting’s origin is fascinating. While a student at the Royal Munich Academy, Marr’s quest to take on such an ambitious painting project caused controversy within the school, with senior administration fearing it was too ambitious and threatening dismissal. Undeterred, Marr found his own studio space and his vision prevailed, with The Flagellants not only receiving many awards in Germany, but it was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where it was priced at $20,000. It was subsequently bought by Mrs. Emil Schandein and transferred to Milwaukee where it remained until 1976. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, Marr became a professor at the Academy in 1893 and eventually its director in 1919.

“Having the painting return to the academy that first rejected its very creation to now be celebrated is a testament to its enduring quality and importance on both sides of the Atlantic,” explained Tom Lidtke, Executive Director of the Museum of Wisconsin Art. “While previous requests for the loan of this painting, from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and the German History Museum in Berlin, were turned down, this loan request was granted for good reason.”