Linda Grashoff's Photography Adventures

Beaux-Arts Enjoyment in Madison and Chicago

September 11, 2022

If you’ve been reading this blog since September 2018, you’ve seen many photographs I’ve taken inside the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. (Look here and here and here.) Last month, visiting family in Madison, I made another pilgrimage to the building, hoping I could find something new to photograph or a new way to photograph something I’d seen on the other visits. This year we took the train as far as Chicago, and going inside the big old rooms of Union Station to catch the train home, I was surprised by details that recalled what I’d just photographed in Madison. I wondered if the same architect had designed both buildings, but no. George B. Post designed the Wisconsin capitol building, and Daniel Burnham designed Union Station. What I learned by Googling is that both architects worked in the Beaux-Arts tradition. So that is Beaux Arts. I had heard the term but never looked it up.

I took the photos in Union Station rushing to the train, and the exposures were not good, but I thought the comparisons worth showing.

1 This ornament at the tops of columns (I’m probably not using the right words) in the capitol building are not exactly Mr. Post’s original idea. What I take to be a speaker in this photo is a late addition, I think.

2 Here is an architectural detail in Union Station.

3 Barrel vaults abound in both buildings. This is the capitol.

4 And here is the station.

5 One of the station’s barrel vaults can be seen more easily in this photograph.

6 I looked in vain through my photos of the capitol for one that showed scrolled brackets like these at the station. I was sure there must be some, but I couldn’t find them.

7 It was amusing to see touches of art deco in both buildings. This in the inside of a capitol elevator.

8 And here’s an art deco touch in the station. I couldn’t spend more time in the station; I might have found more parallels.

9 The sweeping arcs in the capitol never fail to charm me.


11 The murals are not painted but made of mosaic tiles.

12 You can see the individual tiles in this blow-up of the previous photograph.




16 In this photo, the figure and ground keep reversing for me even though I know perfectly well what is depicted.

17 Maybe I’ve finished photographing the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. But maybe not.

10 responses

  1. What ornate buildings. You did well in taking closer looks than most people do. Picture 12, though a mosaic, reminds us that ancient Greek sculptures were actually painted, but almost all the pigments have deteriorated or worn off over the many centuries since then.

    I believe the top part of a column is called its capital. The ancient Greeks developed three styles of column, the most ornamental of which, the Corinthian, looks like it could have served as a starting point for the work you’ve shown in your top picture. The Art Deco touches sure are different from that.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2022 at 7:50 AM

    • Forgive me, please, for such a late reply. I could give excuses, but they would be boring. Regarding your second sentence: I’m happy you think I “did well” to take a closer look. That’s a major pleasure in practicing photography, isn’t it. I’m sure some would say that the Art Deco touches clash with the overall Beaux Arts style, but aren’t they fun?


      September 25, 2022 at 5:04 PM

  2. It’s easy to see why you return there, Linda. These photos are just beautiful. #15 and #17 are exceptional! I know shooting inside buildings is technically challenging but you handled those challenges well. Nice work.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2022 at 10:48 AM

    • Thank you, Ken. Yes, shooting inside buildings is tricky for me, especially when there is little light (it was cloudy that day in Madison) and because (on purpose) I don’t use a tripod. I relied heavily on Lightroom’s Transform > Upright feature.


      September 25, 2022 at 5:05 PM

  3. I’d say keep at it. Not because these need improvement but just because the buildings are so gloriously appointed that they deserve more study. They just aren’t making ’em like this any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2022 at 11:41 AM

    • Thanks, Steve. I guess it will be worth at least one more visit—on a day with more sunshine. There may be a few places I haven’t spent enough time in.

      Liked by 1 person

      September 25, 2022 at 5:05 PM

  4. mrgporter

    Deliciously fascinating, Linda! :-))

    Liked by 1 person

    September 11, 2022 at 1:06 PM

  5. Like Ken, I’m glad you go back and think there’s no question that you’re up to the challenges. I’m glad you included both details and grander views here. As much as I admire the architectural forms, I keep coming back to that gorgeous mosaic of Lady Justice. Those colors! They’re very autumnal, maybe that’s part of it. #10 is a favorite, too, for the way so many arches and cornices work together, even from an angle one can’t imagine the architect ever considering. I hope the Union Station sign lasts forever – it could not possibly be improved. #16 and 17 are like icing on the cake. Ah, I love a grand old train station! (Or capitol building, I guess).

    Liked by 1 person

    September 18, 2022 at 11:55 AM

    • All the mosaics are “gorgeous,” like the one of Lady Justice. I’ll see if I can get a clear shot of one of the other ones next time. I can’t imagine how the architect could keep all the arches and other architectural ideas in his head at the same time—and coordinate them. It’s interesting about #17: I left this one pretty much how it came out of the camera. Most of the other photos needed exposure adjustment to show what I saw. But #17 was just as I saw it, and I liked all that darkness. Thanks, Lynn.

      Liked by 1 person

      September 25, 2022 at 5:06 PM

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