A University Gallery Publicity Book dated 1957 included a brief article about the acquisition of a painting to the art collection. “Still Life with Leaves” by B. J. O. Nordfeldt was given to the collection by the artist’s widow, Emily Abbott Nordfeldt and dedicated to retired gallery director Ruth Lawrence “in recognition of her years of service to the University of Minnesota and to the University Gallery” .
Upon donation in July 1958, the painting was displayed as the “Picture of the Month” in Northrup Auditorium’s east stairwell. Although it was described as brightly colored in a newspaper article, by today’s standards the color pallet might be called reserved, subdued or earthy. What is surprising to me is that amidst these seemingly murky tones is the definite sense of light reflecting and even emanating from within the still life.
While the collection in 1958 had an impressive amount of Nordfeldt works on long term loan, this painting was among the first Nordfeldt works to become a part of the gallery’s permanent collection. Today, the WAM collection holds a goodly number of works by Nordfelt many of which can be viewed online here. You can see three works by Nordfeldt on display in WAM’s Woodhouse Gallery and two works in the current WAM exhibition, Surfaced: Rarely Seen Woodcuts from the Collection on view through November 15, 2017.
—Heather Carroll is the processing archivist for the Weisman Art Museum‘s collection at the University of Minnesota Archives. This project was made possible by funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.