Fine Arts


History has all but forgotten that while Captain Pabst was one of Milwaukee’s great citizens during the nineteenth century, he was also one of the Midwest’s leading art connoisseurs and collectors. Captain Pabst clearly was drawn to the civilizing aspect of fine art.  The walls of his home, his restaurants and at his offices at the Pabst Brewing Company were adorned with many large and fine paintings.  Happily, the creation of the Pabst Mansion coincided with Captain and Mrs. Pabst’s growing interest in fine art. As they were already patrons of the local theater, fostering Milwaukee as the “German Athens of the West” was natural for them.

Captain and Mrs. Pabst first art purchase was Louis Rach’s Columbus in Chains completed in 1879. This large, foreboding oil painting, depicted Columbus being taken back to Spain bound in chains at the end of his third voyage. With the construction of the Pabst Mansion well under way, Mrs. Pabst is credited with making several acquisitions for their new residence in 1891.  Among her purchases that summer were an Ideal Head by Conrad Kiesel, Cossack by Alfred von Wierusz Kowalski and Charles Sprague Pearce’s Return from the Orchard.  The majority of their acquisitions, fell neatly into the years 1892 to 1897. At the end of this five-year period the Pabsts had amassed one of the finest private art collections in the Midwest.

However the great period of the Pabsts’ collecting would begin in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Fair. The Pabst family spent hours at the fair viewing the latest works of artists from around the world in the Fine Arts Building. Over a two-week period Captain and Mrs. Pabst would purchase twenty-two paintings at a total cost of just under $14,000.

After  the deaths of Captain and Mrs. Pabst in 1904 and 1906, respectively, the Pabst art collection was divided into five equal parts among their four children and granddaughter. Approximately half of the roughly 120 paintings that once hung in the Pabst Mansion have been accounted for. Some are still retained by the Pabst family. Others have been sold or donated to museums and a small group of paintings were transferred to the Pabst Brewing Company.

Today the Pabst Mansion’s art collection, complemented by works on loan from or donated by members of the Pabst family, truly showcase the love of art that Captain and Mrs. Pabst brought to Milwaukee during the nineteenth century.



The Blatz Collection

In the organization’s early days special events were used as tools to raise funds. One such event brought the art collection of a competitive brewer to the Pabst Mansion.  Emil Blatz, descendant of the founder of the Blatz Brewing Company collected many of the same style genre paintings that the Pabst’s had.  Indeed, many of the same artists and subjects were strikingly similar; it made a dramatic, authentic improvement on the interior of the Mansion.  A permanent long-term loan was negotiated and the collection has remained in the house since 1983. Many well known artists including Frederick Soulacrouix, Henry Raschen, Eugene Verboeckhoven, Louis Rach, and Eugene von Blaas are represented between the two brewing family collections. 







Original Pabst painting


Original Pabst paintings currently in private hands


Original Blatz Paintings


"Lisa" by Eugene von Blaas - current whereabouts unknown


Murals by Hermann Michalowski




"Columbus in Chains" by Louis Rach, 1879, 5'x7'


"Miniature Portrait of Renaissance Woman" by E. Carinei, 19th century, 4"x5"


Captain Pabst's marble bust with base


"Portrait of a Swedish Noblewoman"  by David Beck 1648


"Campfire Gathering" by Henry Raschen 1894  --  painted on a reused canvas so that on close inspection a face from the original painting can be seen peeking through