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Rarely seen art exhibited at historical society

From left to right, Milissa Brooks-Ojibway, collections manager; JoAnne Coombe, executive director; and Daniel Hartman, event coordinator, of the St. Louis County Historical Society. They are examining the unique aspects of "Woman with Washing Machine", painted for the July 1920 edition of the Marshall Wells Company catalog.  Thomas Vaughn for the Budgeteer1 / 2
During the 1920s, David Ericson, one of St. Louis County's most famous painters, created this mythic depiction of Daniel Greysolon in his French hometown during the 17th century. The painting is titled "Sieur du Lhut." Greysolon was the first European to see the Arrowhead region.2 / 2

The painting, "Woman with Washing Machine," once could be found in countless Duluth homes. Now, 91 years later, area residents can view the original work in its own home at the Duluth Depot. Painted by Walter Beach Humphrey for the July 1920 Marshall Wells Hardware Company catalog cover, it is part of an upcoming art exhibition sponsored by the St. Louis County Historical Society titled, "Art Unveiled."

All of the art to be featured at the exhibition has been out of sight and in storage for at least 20 years. The works will be presented as an ensemble, and the event will showcase the historic achievements of St. Louis County artists over the past century.

Daniel Hartman, event coordinator for Art Unveiled, is working with both internal and external experts to plan this one-night event, which will take place Nov. 16 in the Depot Great Hall.

"We have a lot of art that the public hasn't seen in decades," Hartman said. "We went through our collection and, frankly, there were a lot more paintings there than I ever imagined. We have over 200 paintings in our collection, and 40 of those 200 are what the public will be seeing."

One external expert is Anne Dugan, curator at the Duluth Art Institute and art historian.

"A lot of people don't realize the depth of talent that comes from this region," Dugan said about the variety of works that will be on view. "I'm excited to see them because I think they showcase a strong collection. I think it will be a rare opportunity to see that kind of strength exhibited."

Dugan also pointed out that the Duluth Art Institute is donating its movable wall structures for the event. These walls will make it possible for patrons to examine the art up close in a leisurely manner.

"They're physical walls, but people will be able to navigate freely," Dugan said. "It's not going to be an overwhelming sense of 'I have to look at these 40 paintings all at once'. The way an installation like this is done is that you can interact in an intimate way with the paintings that are on view."

David Ericson (1869-1946) is one of St. Louis County's most famous artists, and some of his works will be shown at the exhibition. Ericson grew up on Minnesota Point studying art as a child, and then trained professionally as an adult under James McNeill Whistler.

In 1923, Ericson completed six large murals for Hibbing High School. In 1946, he also painted a series of altar paintings for the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Gary, along with many Impressionist landscapes and portraits.

There will also be a series of smaller paintings from the Works Progress Administration era, along with a bronze bust of Gilbert Munger and some hair wreaths from the Victorian era.

Susan Schwanekamp, executive assistant for the society, wrote the text labels for all 40 pieces of art and is preparing more information that will help patrons learn about the visual displays. The historical society staff will be present to answer questions about the works.

"I like the idea of showing a large cache of the holdings of our collection that are actually presented to the public as part of our mission," Schwanekamp said. "We're going to provide an educational handout going into more depth about the artists' lives and more into the history to guide people through the show."

Speaking to the present time, JoAnne Coombe, executive director of the society, points out that offering works of art to the society's archive isn't part of the past but is ongoing into the present.

"The art collected by the society since 1920 came from a variety of sources," Coombe said. "If there are artworks out there that people are considering for donation and they fit the profile, meaning they tell the story of our county and they meet certain artistic quality standards, we'd love to hear from them."

Art Unveiled takes place Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 each. To purchase a ticket, call (218) 733-7586 or email the society at


WHO: St. Louis County Historical Society

WHAT: "Art Unveiled"


WHEN: Wednesday,

Nov. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

WHY: To see works of art that have been in storage.

HOW: Tickets are $25 each. Call (218) 733-7586 or email the society at