The largest public collection of work by artisan blacksmith Cyril Colnik is housed at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee. In 1991, Colnik’s daughter Gretchen donated over 200 examples of his work in wrought iron and brass to the Villa Terrace. Many of these important works are currently on view at the museum, along with tools, photographs, examples of metalworking techniques (created by Dan Nauman of the Bighorn Forge), and drawings (gifted to the Villa Terrace by the Kohler Foundation in 2002 as part of the Colnik Archive).
A total of 47 catalog entries for objects from this collection can now be viewed online in the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database. Together, these pieces show Colnik’s experimentation with a broad range of popular styles. The sconce (above) made from a deer antler wrapped in wrought iron, designed for the Schlitz Brown Bottle Guest Hall in Milwaukee, captures the rustic feel of northern European castles and ale houses. It stands in stark contrast to Colnik’s sleek nickelplated Art Deco candelabra (below).
Two good starting points for more information on Cyril Colnik are Virginia Jones Maher’s article “The Wrought Iron Artistry of Cyril Colnik,” Wisconsin Academy Review 44:3 (1998) (available online through the University of Wisconsin) and the DVD Forged Elegance: The Lifework of Master Blacksmith Cyril Colnik, 1998, produced by Dan Nauman.
Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.