MARJORIE KREILICK was born in 1925 in Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. She earned BA and MA degrees in sculpture from Ohio State University and MA in sculpture from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, known as the 'Cradle of American Modernism', when Eero Saarinen was its director. In 1953, she joined the art department at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In 1956, she took a year-long sabbatical to Rome for in-depth study and hands-on training in the ancient art of mosaic, and to cast bronze. She apprenticed under the master mosaicist Giulio Giovanetti, and began a long collaboration with the Meloni brothers, who assisted with fabricating many of her architectural works. She returned to Italy frequently and learned to speak fluent Italian.
Kreilick’s first architectural commission was in 1959, and she continued to collaborate with architects, creating more than 15 mosaic installations throughout her career. In 1961 she was the first woman to be granted the fellowship in painting (now visual arts) at the American Academy of Rome, where she simultaneously worked on her tour de force project, ten marble and gold mosaic murals for the Wisconsin State Office building (1961-1963).
She taught in the UW–Madison Department of Art for 38 years, retiring in 1991 as a professor emerita. Her color theory courses were renowned for their rigor and science-based approach. She undertook years of material and formulary research and created an artificial blue ‘marble’ for her bespoke mosaic works. Her sculptures, paintings, and fine art mosaic panels are held in private collections, at the Chazen Museum of Art, the Racine Art Museum and the Museum of Wisconsin Art.
Image above: Marjorie Kreilick, Artist’s Self Portrait, marble mosaic, c.1961, in the collection of the Chazen Museum of Art, No. 2020.13.9. Photo: Lillian Sizemore