Gerhard CF Miller Wing

A special wing devoted to the accomplished works of Mr. Miller's art, known as imaginary realism, houses many of the extraordinary works he completed in his lifetime. He excelled in drawing, watercolor and egg tempera. His passing in August, 2003, at 100 years of age, leaves us intensely committed to preserving the public legacy of the Museum.

Gerhard Carl Friedrich Miller

Gerhard Miller was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1903. His interest in painting began at the age of twelve after he contracted polio; a condition he largely overcame through surgery, exercise, and therapy. He studied art independently by constantly painting, studying art books, and visiting museums. Occasionally he was tutored and critiqued by artist, Roy Mason of Batavia New York. After studying business administration at the University of Wisconsin, he entered the family retail clothing business in Sturgeon Bay. Despite business demands and pressures, Gerhard’s interest in painting continued to grow.

Miller’s first color medium was oil, but in 1938 he felt his ability had progressed to the point he could take on the more challenging watercolor medium. By 1958, interest in his work had grown to such a level he opened a gallery at his home. A fellowship in 1965 at the Huntington-Hartford Foundation in Pacific Palisades, California, provided Miller the opportunity to begin experimenting with the egg tempera medium. Ever since, egg tempera has been the medium of choice for his large paintings, though he continued work in drawing and watercolor for smaller works. His art celebrates the current and past beauty of his beloved Door County, the major theme of his imaginative realism.

Since the late 1940’s, his travels to foreign lands (44 in total) provided him with a new and rich variety of subject matter and inspiration. Some of his travels included trips to Central America, Africa, India and Europe, where he did extensive study and large body of work of castles.

In 1944, Miller published a book of his poetry, Residue (out of print). He also lectured on art to various groups in Wisconsin. Because the community offered little art education for local residents, he taught evening classes at the Sturgeon Bay branch of the DC Libraries, The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay, and summer classes in Ephraim and Fish Creek for the Peninsula Arts Association. He also served as a juror for many competitive art exhibits in the Midwest.

Miller was a regular exhibitor and recipient of awards in national watercolor exhibits since the early 1950’s: Certificate of Merit from the Whitney and Museum of Modern Art, New York (1962). He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humanities by the Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was a member of the prestigious American Watercolor Society, Audubon Society (since 1949), the Wisconsin Watercolor Society, and Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors.

In 1975, along with his wife, Ruth, he founded the Miller Art Center in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, (now the Miller Art Museum) where over 100 of his works are housed and exhibited on a rotating basis. Ruth Miller published a loving biography of Miller in 1987 and they co-authored two more: The Other Side of the Door and The Thrill of Castle Hunting. In the last several years of his life, Gerhard published several small paperbacks: Spiritual Guide to the Scientific 21st Century, Levels-Physical, Mental and Spiritual, Philosophical Truisms, Highlights of the Holy Land, God is in Control, and Highlights of the Travels of an Artist and His Wife.

Permanent Collection

The Miller Art Museum collects the work of exceptional Wisconsin artists from early 20th century to the present in painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography, and exhibits these works on a rotating basis on the Ruth Morton Miller mezzanine. The permanent collection consists of 617 pieces that represent 198 artists.