The Art of Christmas: Wakonda

Last Updated by Michael Zimny on

The small Southeastern South Dakota town of Wakonda (population 321) is home to St. Patrick's Catholic Church, an exemplar of how the late nineteenth century Gothic Revival aesthetic materialized out on the Plains. The Church is also home to a stunning exhibition of the Munich style of stained glass work — including a vivid Nativity scene — brought to the Midwest by German-speaking immigrants. 

St. Patrick’s was built in 1904, designed by architect Anton Dohmen. A Bavarian who emigrated to Milwaukee, Dohmen’s Gothic Revival cathedrals touch the sky at points across the prairie from LeRoy, Wisconsin to Mandan, North Dakota to Hoven, South Dakota at the famous St. Anthony of Padua (and even in SDPB’s backyard at the historic St. Agnes in Vermillion.)

St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Wakonda.

St. Patrick’s facade tempers Gothic flourishes like the single spired tower, rose window and quatrefoil-crowned arches with a more vernacular prairie sensibility. 

Nineteen stained glass windows, including several prominent story windows line the church walls. The windows may have been designed Karl Riemann, a frequent collaborator with Dohmen, fellow Milwaukeean and master of the Munich style of stained glass, in which the artist paints on relatively large glass panels, as opposed to many smaller glass panels within an intricate leaded framework.

Riemann studied painting under the tutelage of the German-born, Milwaukee-based Western landscape artist Richard Lorenz and studied at the Grand Ducal Saxon School of Visual Arts — which would become the Bauhaus — in Weimar, Germany. The color schemes in his stained glass work are more High Renaissance than Old West, which is fitting for the medium.

The stained glass Nativity scene at St. Patrick's is likely the work of Milwaukee-based artist Karl Riemann

The Munich-style was influenced by Romanticism and you can see the Romantic ideal of lush, natural realism — laced with a more medieval, articulately leaded framework — in the traditional tripartite Nativity Scene. The rich colors and elaborate shadowing, the mottled look of what appears to be a marble column in the manger, and the deep greens of the outdoor garden suffused with star light create a remarkably realist tableau for a work in the medium. 

Another medieval element, the halos on the heads of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, syncs well with the ornate border work. And the babe here projects an almost Byzantine sense of poise and awareness. The contented cow behind the elder wiseman, reminiscent of some of Perugino’s happy-go-lucky kine, could almost serve as a bovine envoy between epochs in sacred art.  

subscribe to sdpb email updates food blog link image learning blog link image living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Related content from SDPB Radio - Art

Paul Horsted’s Epic National Parks Project

In The Moment ... November 22, 2017 Show 226 Hour 1 Paul Horsted has been making photographs for more than 35 years....

Cheech Marin On Art, Comedy, And American Identity

In The Moment ... November 13, 2017 Show 218 Hour 1 Cheech Marin is known as an actor, director, author, and...

In The Moment ... Artists Respond To The Reformation

In The Moment ... October 31, 2017 Show 210 Hour 1 What does it mean to drastically change in order to improve...

In The Moment ... The Art Of J. Steven Manolis

In The Moment ... October 5, 2017 Show 192 Hour 2 The "Painting Vermillion Red" art exhibit features the work of USD...

Books

Craig Tschetter: "15 Minutes Ago"

In The Moment ... December 13, 2017 Show 239 Hour 1 Author and Vietnam veteran Craig Tschetter joins In the Moment host Lori Walsh for a conversation about his book, "...

Book Talk With Jacqueline Palfy

In The Moment ... December 8, 2017 Show 236 Hour 1 What does another year of reading tell you about the world and...

Penguin Hotline: No Penguins Harmed In Search For Books

In The Moment ... November 29, 2017 Show 229 Hour 2 Inspired by the Butterball Turkey Hotline, the fine penguins...

Paul Horsted’s Epic National Parks Project

In The Moment ... November 22, 2017 Show 226 Hour 1 Paul Horsted has been making photographs for more than 35 years....

Music

Moment In Sound With Hailey Steele

In The Moment ... December 15, 2017 Show 241 Hour 1 South Dakota's Hailey Steele now lives and makes music in Nashville. She travels the state for the "Christmas in...

Moment In Sound With Tammy Yonce

In The Moment ... December 8, 2017 Show 236 Hour 1 For this week's Moment in Sound we welcome Tammy Yonce, music...

Anjelic: A Woman Sits Quietly Beneath

In The Moment ... December 5, 2017 Show 233 Hour 1 The women of Anjelic have been making music together long enough...

History Of Handel's Messiah

In The Moment November 30, 2017 Show 230 Hour 1 The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra presents the Handel's Messiah...

Theater

Images of the Past: Stage To Screen

In The Moment ... November 27, 2017 Show 227 Hour 2 A new exhibit at the Old Courthouse Museum tells the story of...

Personalities: From Huron High to Broadway

Singer, actor, and teacher Joseph Mahowald graduated from Huron High School in 1977. He went on to study music and...

In The Moment ... Alex Meyer's Scenic Design

In The Moment ... May 10, 2017 Show 090 Hour 2 Alex Meyer. He's a junior art and theater major at Augustana College...

In The Moment ... Remembering Vietnam On Horseback

In The Moment ... May 9, 2017 Show 089 Hour 2 Colt Romberger’s father served in Vietnam, and it changed his life...