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

In The Moment ... The Hob Menace With Angela Swedberg

In The Moment ... September 18, 2017 Show 179 Hour 2 When you visit a museum you expect authenticity from the exhibitions, art, and artifacts. Angela Swedberg is a...

In The Moment ... On The Other Hand With Kevin Woster

In The Moment ... September 14, 2017 Show 177 Hour 1 Arthur C. Jones is a professor in the department of musicology,...

In The Moment ... The Future – And Past – Of Racing In Huron

In The Moment ... September 1, 2017 Show 169 Hour 1 Sioux Falls based singer/songwriter Meriweather Raindelay is...

In The Moment ... Law School Debate: Vermillion Or Sioux Falls?

In The Moment ... August 8, 2017 Show 151 Hour 1 Where should we put the state's only law school? Declining...

Books

In The Moment ... Author Jan Karon And A Trip To Mitford

In The Moment ... September 19, 2017 Show 180 Hour 2 If you've ever been to Mitford, you might not want to leave...

In The Moment ... Moment In Sound With Chad Konrad

In The Moment ... September 8, 2017 Show 173 Hour 1 We begin the program with this week's Moment in Sound. You can...

In The Moment ... South Dakota Festival Of Books

In The Moment ... August 14, 2017 Show 155 Hour 2 Get ready to head for the Hills. In the Moment is in Deadwood for...

In The Moment ... Lifting The Alzheimer’s Stigma

In The Moment ... August 10, 2017 Show 153 Hour 1 The death of musician Glen Campbell this week has many South...

Music

In The Moment ... Moment In Sound With Jami Lynn

In The Moment ... September 15, 2017 Show 178 Hour 1 Jami Lynn is essential listening in South Dakota and beyond...

In The Moment ... Dakota Political Junkies On Division In State GOP

In The Moment ... September 13, 2017 Show 176 Hour 2 Do divisions within a state political party impact you? What's...

In The Moment ... Moment In Sound With Chad Konrad

In The Moment ... September 8, 2017 Show 173 Hour 1 We begin the program with this week's Moment in Sound. You can...

In The Moment ... USD Law School Update

In The Moment ... September 7, 2017 Show 172 Hour 1 Should the Law School at the University of South Dakota relocate...

Theater

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...

Dakota Midday: S.F. Washington's "Wizard Of Oz"

South Dakota high schools produce a variety of plays each year. This week the Washington High School drama...

Dakota Midday: Lisa McNulty On Female Artists

The Off-Broadway Women's Project Theater is the oldest and largest theater company that promotes women artists in...