Located in a Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion in the early 1890s, the museum's constantly rotating permanent collection is a wide-ranging assortment of important artists, genres and movements in art history. The varied range provides an example of mid-nineteenth century impressionism just a few feet away from a post-modernist piece. Providing a glimpse of over one hundred and fifty years of art history within one gallery’s walls is what sets the Rahr-West Art Museum apart from larger and more specialized institutions.
Specific works, notably those of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, William Bouguereau and Salvador Dali, come from a variety of different countries. However, the majority by far is of American origination. We are also take pride in our works created by Wisconsin-based artists.
The breadth and depth of the collection extends into the movements, genres and mediums that epitomize American art history. These include such pivotal artists as: Georgia O’Keefe, Alex Katz, Mark Rothko, Stuart Davis, Andrew Wyeth, and Andy Warhol, among others. These works run the gamut from oil to watercolor to prints.
The Victorian mansion was built between 1891 and 1893, designed by the Milwaukee architects George Ferry and Alfred Clas, who also designed the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee. The house is an eclectic assemblage of turrets, dormers, bay windows, and building materials combined to make an attractive façade and a formal yet comfortable interior. The house contains 13 bedrooms, seven full and partial baths, hot-water heat with six fireplaces, gaslight, and cistern water.
The mansion was donated to the city in 1941 to be used as a museum and civic center. Subsequent expansion has created purpose-built exhibition gallery space. The mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.