Wisconsin’s Visual Arts Legacy: Alfred Sessler

“First Prize: Al Sessler (Milwaukee). Cops Will be Cops, $25; adjudged by the jury as the most meritorious work in exhibition, automatically increasing purchase prize of $25 to $75” declared the judges of the Second Wisconsin Salon of Art in 1935 upon acquiring the drawing for the collection. Sessler, born in Milwaukee, worked for four years with the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration. In 1945, he received his masters from the University of Wisconsin and subsequently joined the University’s Faculty of Art and Art Education, becoming a professor in 1956. He remained on the faculty until his sudden death in 1963. Throughout his career, Sessler became one of the nation’s leading graphite artists and educators. As with many Depression-era artists, Cops Will be Cops expresses Sessler’s preoccupation with the lonely, the dispirited and the ignored of his time. This piece also imparts a growing distrust for authorities in America during the tumultuous 1930s.

Catalogue entry by Christena Gunther

As a part of a continuing series of artist profiles, this issue of Art in Wisconsin features Alfred Sessler. The work shown here is a part of the UW Madison - Wisconsin Union Galleries collection and was part of a recent exhibition titled; “Highlights from the Wisconsin Union Art Collection.” The website documenting the exhibition can be found at: