Earl W. Gessert (1918 - 1996)

Birth date: 1918 Death date: 1996  
Birth location: Sheboygan, Wisconsin Death location: Sun City, Arizona  
Media: Painting , Sketchbook Web site:
Fair (file rating) - MWA artist file may include basic data, and additional newspaper articles, book references, exhibition information, and images that can be researched on site at MWA.


Earl Gessert

Born 1918 in Sheboygan, WI

Died 1996 in Sun City, Arizona

Earl Gessert’s artistic ability was acknowledged at a young age as he loved to paint his surroundings with watercolors.  His mother brought his art to her employer, Charlotte Kohler, wife of the Governor of Wisconsin Walter J. Kohler, who encouraged him to continue his studies and he subsequently enrolled at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee.  Gessert was drafted into the army in 1943, putting his art education on hold.  While he was posted overseas he sketched scenes to paint upon his return however, many were lost in battle.  He suffered an injury and was soon discharged.

Once back home Gessert renewed his studies at Layton School of Art, graduating in 1948.  However, he soon decided he would need more than an art career to support his wife and children and after working many odd jobs he finally settled into a career as a milkman.  He would work as a milkman in the mornings before teaching, (he taught at the Layton School of Art for 15 years) then paint the rest of the day.  He was soon known as “Milwaukee’s Milkman Artist”.

Gessert’s works in watercolor won many awards and were exhibited not just in Milwaukee, but in galleries across the United States and all over the world.   Sometimes abstract, he loved to paint industrialization and street scenes as if they had a life of their own.  Not only did he teach new artists, he also helped form the Wisconsin Watercolor Society in 1952 and soon became its President in 1953.  He also ran a studio out of his garage.  In 1977, he moved away from Wisconsin to Arizona where he continued to paint his surroundings, painting every day until he was too ill to do so.  He died of Parkinson’s disease in 1996.

Selected Group Exhibitions:

1943    Thirtieth Annual Exhibition of Wisconsin Art: Milwaukee Art Institute, Milwaukee, WI.

1961    Watercolors by Wisconsin Artists: Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee, WI.

1961    The Brotherhood of Man:  30th Anniversary Jewish Community Center, Milwaukee, WI.

1976    A Century Plus of Wisconsin Watercolors:  sponsored by the Racine Art Association at the Wustum Museum of Fine            Arts, Racine, WI.,  The State Historical Society of  Wisconsin, Madison, Nicolet College, The West Bend Gallery of Fine           Arts, the University of WI. – Oshkosh, the Racine Art Guild and the Wisconsin Watercolor Society.

2002    50th Anniversary Exhibition of the Wisconsin Watercolor Society: West Bend Art    Museum, West Bend,   WI.

 © 2006, 1/27 Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend , Wisconsin                                                            4/6/2010

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