The Miller Art Museum in downtown Sturgeon Bay is set to unveil two new exhibitions on Saturday, November 5, 2022: Hanseatic: The Life and Work of Karsten and Ellen Topelmann in the first-floor main galleries and New Acquisitions from James J. Ingwersen on the Ruth Morton Miller Mezzanine. Door County’s landscape has long piqued the interest of visual artists, especially so for the late Karsten Topelmann (1929-2021) and his late wife, Ellen Sprogø Topelmann (1926-2016). The exhibition, featuring 34 works, collectively depict the story of a village, their beloved Ephraim, a family, and two extraordinary artists each with distinct accomplishments and talents. In tandem, a collection of 12 paintings—new acquisitions to the permanent collection—and two bronze sculptures will be featured with existing collection works by James J. Ingwersen. Both exhibitions will be on display through December 30, 2022.

2022 Hanseatic

Karsten Topelmann, Still Life with Self-portrait Reflectionl - Karsten Topelmann, Hanseatic Gallery - Ellen Topelmann, Our Village

In celebration of these legacy artists, an abundant lineup of public programming is scheduled for the coming weeks:

Exhibition Preview | Friday, November 4 from 4 - 5pm. Museum members and volunteers are invited to preview the exhibition prior to opening to the public with a tour guided by Curator Helen del Guidice.

The Studio Door | Saturday, November 5 from 2 - 3pm. A presentation of The Studio Door; free and open to the public. Curator Helen del Guidice sits down in conversation with Lars and Lisa Topelmann to discuss the life and work of their parents, Karsten and Ellen (Sprogø) Topelmann. A question-and-answer period will follow the conversation; the public is invited to share personal anecdotes about the artists.

Opening Reception | Saturday, November 5 from 3 - 4:30pm. An opening reception for both exhibitions will directly follow The Studio Door. Light refreshments will be served and music will be provided by Craig Schultz. The event is free and open to the public.

The Topelmann Legacy | Thursday, November 10 from 10:30 - 11:30am. Insightful research and historical artifacts on the Topelmann legacy will be presented by the Ephraim Historical Foundation. Executive Director Cody Schreck and Educator Kathleen Harris will speak to the regional impact of the late celebrated Door County legacy artists Karsten Topelmann and Ellen Sprogø Topelmann.

The Sturgeon Bay Branch of the Door County Library where the Miller Art Museum is housed will be CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC due to maintenance on Monday, November 7 and Tuesday, November 8. The museum will reopen to the public on Wednesday, November 9 at 10am.

In 1971, Karsten and Ellen Sprogø Topelmann bought a property in the heart of historic Ephraim, Wisconsin. The property was originally a rooming house and resort known as the Larson Cottages, built in 1906 by the Larson family, who were Swedish immigrants.

The quaint property would soon be transformed by the Topelmann’s to become the place they would build their life together, a home for their family, and where they would create the Hanseatic Gallery—the establishment that would feed their artistic endeavors and where they would pursue their careers as professional artists over the next 50 years.

The gallery was named Hanseatic in reference to Ellen’s city of birth in Hamburg, Germany, which was one of the major ports of the medieval merchant’s guild, the Hanseatic League. Eventually, the gallery would be draped in signature red and white striped awnings, symbolic of Hamburg’s Hanseatic flag.

The exhibition has been curated in collaboration with Lars and Lisa Topelmann to include works from the family’s personal collection along with works from the Ephraim Historical Foundation, and local collectors Richard Malzahn, Karen Malzahn and Martha Bisacchi.

Concurrently, on the second floor Ruth Morton Miller Mezzanine, the museum will feature New Acquisitions by James J. Ingwersen, a collection of significant works gifted by the artist from his personal collection in 2022. This collection of 12 paintings and two bronze sculptures will be on display with selected works by Ingwersen already present in the permanent collection. The gift comes on the heels of the landmark 2018 retrospective exhibition Captured Moments: Select Portraits by James J. Ingwersen, which presented personal works spanning over six decades.


 James J. Ingwersen, Self-portrait, oil - James J. Ingwersen, Phyllis C. Ingwersen, oil - James J. Ingwersen, Mother, Bertha G. Ingwersen, oil

 “The artworks Mr. Ingwersen gifted to Miller Art Museum represent his legacy to the Door County community. Each of the paintings is a portrait and depicts one of his beloved family members; they include his wife Phyllis, mother Bertha, and beloved friends from the Door County community, including friend and celebrated artist Charles L. Peterson and Mildred Armato,” says Curator of Exhibitions and Collections Helen del Guidice. Also featured in the collection are portraits of distinguished acquaintances from the period that Ingwersen maintained a studio at the historic Tree Studio Building and Annexes in Chicago, Il.

“The museum has continued to grow and develop its permanent collection intentionally in recent years and this significant gift from the artist is a major milestone for the museum,” says Executive Director Elizabeth Meissner-Gigstead. “The collection is anchored in the work of legacy artists like Ingwersen who have shaped and influenced the artistic landscape of the Door Peninsula. The gift is a great honor and it is our privilege to share this collection with the community to inspire all of us in the years to come.”

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