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1925 Marjorie 2023

Marjorie E. Kreilick

November 8, 1925 — July 5, 2023

Madison, WI

Marjorie E. Kreilick (McNab) passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 5 at age 97 in Madison, Wisconsin. Ms. Kreilick was a noted mosaic artist and Emerita Professor of Art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a key figure in the development of public mosaic art in the twentieth century. She created over a dozen architectural installations between 1956 and 1975, most notably, a suite of monumental marble and gold mosaic murals throughout the ten floors of the Wisconsin State Office Building in Milwaukee (1963). Kreilick’s artwork includes sculptures in bronze, ceramic, and wood, a suite of paintings reflecting her vast knowledge of color theory, dozens of prints and works on paper, and fine art mosaics. Her works are held in the Chazen Museum of Art, Racine Art Museum, Flint Institute of Arts, and Museum of Wisconsin Art, and in private collections. 

Marjorie was born in Oak Harbor, Ohio on November 8, 1925, the eldest child of Roland and Luella (Smith) Kreilick. Marjorie earned a BA (1946) and MA (1947) in Art from Ohio State University, studying sculpture with Erwin F. Frey. She worked as a lecturer at the Toledo Museum of Art in the post-war years and went on to earn a second MFA from the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (1951-52). At Cranbrook she specialized in sculpture and was exposed to modernist architectural design theory under the direction of Eero Saarinen. It was here she began to experiment with mosaic. Upon graduation from Cranbrook, she was one of the first women to hold a teaching position in the Department of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she continued to impact the development of arts education for 38 years, until her retirement in 1991. 

 In 1955 she received her first architectural mosaic commission from noted Detroit architect, Louis G. Redstone, producing twelve abstract panels for the entry of Beth Aaron Synagogue. Marjorie’s advancements in architectural mosaic took her on a year-long sabbatical to Rome, Italy in 1957-58, to apprentice at the hand of the maestri. In 1960 she was the first woman to win a Prix de Rome Fellowship in Painting (now Visual Arts) at the American Academy in Rome, bolstered by a scholarship from the Edwin Austen Abbey Foundation. Her fellowship was extended into 1963 to allow time for completion of the State Office Building murals, which were produced in Rome. It was a very productive period during which she produced paintings, mosaics, prints, worked at bronze foundries, and took research trips to archaeological sites. Marjorie’s continued travels found her stamping passports throughout the world. In 1973 she married Scottish-born Duncan Allan McNab. Allan was a noted printmaker, a former chief administrator of the Art Institute of Chicago, and art director for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. They met in 1969 when Marjorie had already been commissioned to create a large mosaic mural for Mayo’s art in architecture program. She described life with Allan as a “meeting of the minds” and they enjoyed art, traveling, gardening, and hosting friends, until Allan’s unexpected death in 1982. Marjorie later completed and posthumously published Allan’s memoir as 'Witness To An Ending' (Parallel Press, 2013).

Ms. Kreilick’s philosophy was that an artist's work is a form of scholarly exploration, and she believed the Arts should be included into a holistic university education. She was a remarkable trailblazer with many firsts to her credit. She was the first to bring studio safety standards into the Art Department, producing a summer school program in collaboration with OSHA. She developed a Design Workshop taking students to New York City to get real world experience in how to earn a living in the arts, visiting the studios of design greats. Kreilick collaborated with noted American glass artist, Dominick Labino, to develop glass formulas in pursuit of a hard, blue “artificial marble.” In the 1970s, she developed a curriculum of design and color theory courses based upon the work of Josef Albers. She was considered a tough instructor with high standards, and her classes have been credited by many younger artists as having great influence upon their work. Marjorie was an indefatigable advocate for women in the arts, delivering the first university lectures on women artists, and serving on committees to assist in hiring more women art faculty and increasing pay equity. Throughout the 1980s she designed costumes and stage sets for dance troupes, working in close collaboration with UW Professor and performer, Anna Nassif. In addition to her commitment as an educator, she will be fondly remembered for her warm hospitality, beautiful smile, elegant demeanor, and sharp wit.

In 2021, a portion of Ms. Kreilick’s professional papers were acquired by the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, and the UW Faculty Archives. The State Office Building murals at 819 N 6th St, Milwaukee, WI can be seen during normal office hours. Each of the ten murals depicts the beauty of Wisconsin’s indigenous landscapes, which she truly loved. Marjorie will be sadly missed by her sister Marilyn (Kreilick) Gates and brother-in-law, Peter Gates of Winchester, Virginia, and by many friends and admirers in Wisconsin and beyond. In her last years, she established the Marjorie Kreilick Legacy Foundation Inc., a non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the long-term reputation and documentation of Ms. Kreilick’s artworks and professional career and helping to preserve her public artworks for continued public viewing. 

At Ms. Kreilick’s request, no service will be held. Condolences and Memorial donations may be mailed to the Foundation.

Marjorie Kreilick Legacy Foundation Inc.

℅ William Whitford, President

1047 Sherman Avenue, Madison, WI 53703

Please make checks payable to 

Marjorie Kreilick Legacy Foundation Inc.

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