Marjorie Kreilick, a 1963 Fellow and the second woman to win a Rome Prize in painting, died on July 5, 2023, in Madison, Wisconsin. She was 97. A sculptor and mosaicist, Kreilick was also among the first women professors at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she taught for thirty-eight years.
Kreilick completed numerous public commissions, including one for the Wisconsin State Office Building in Milwaukee—a grand series of mosaic murals in marble and gold spread over ten floors. This project, which she worked on during the two years she spent in Rome, was the subject of an AAR Magazine feature in fall/winter 2015, republished here.
Midcentury Mosaics: A Visit with Marjorie Kreilick (1963 Fellow)
The painter and mosaicist Marjorie Kreilick—the second female Rome Prize winner for painting (now part of the visual arts category)—is known for her site-specific mosaic murals. During her two-year fellowship, Kreilick designed and developed a series of ten marble mosaic murals for the State Office Building in Milwaukee, which was then under construction. True to her collaborative style, she worked closely with Karel Yasko, who was then the state architect of Wisconsin. The murals, one per floor, are approximately fifteen by ten feet. Their themes address the quality of the land and honor those who preserved it before us. The marble for the tesserae came from the quarries at Carrara in Tuscany. Tons of marble were shipped across the Atlantic, down the St. Lawrence River, and across the Great Lakes to Milwaukee, where a local mosaicist trained in Germany prepared them for the wall installation.
Academy President Mark Robbins visited Milwaukee to see the murals and to talk with Kreilick about her time at the Academy and its impact on her career. On a tour of the State Office Building, he noticed how the murals remain a central feature of the building. “It was delightful to meet Marjorie and see the murals, which are as vibrant as when they were created,” commented Robbins. “There is a truly an American form of abstraction in the depiction of the Midwest landscape. The mural titled Forward (Wisconsin’s state motto) begins the sequence in the building’s lobby and sets an optimistic tone for the pictorial suite.”
Kreilick strongly believes that her partnerships with architects contributed to the success of her work over the years. She has often cited how artist/architect collaborations in the ancient world led to the great mosaics one can still see in well-known Greek and Roman buildings.
Before winning the Rome Prize, Kreilick spent a year chopping marble as an apprentice in the Roman mosaic studio of Giulio Giovanetti. She received BA and MA degrees from Ohio State University and earned her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art. She began teaching at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1953. Her work can be found in the collections of the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina and the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Other large-scale commissions include the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota), Augustana University (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), and the Telfair Academy of Arts and Science (Savannah, Georgia).
Over the years Kreilick remained committed to the American Academy in Rome and was a member of the McKim & Morgan Society.