Renowned artist/scientist paintings auctioned
Scientist/artist Ron Daggett used to say that he could fix anything “but broken hearts and the crack of dawn.”
Daggett, an esteemed engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin, died at age 89 in 2004.
But he is still assisting Kewaunee County where he often came to paint on vacations, through his estate, which has donated 22 of his more than 600 watercolor paintings and sketches for a Nov. 1 auction to fund technology upgrades at the Kewaunee Public Library.
“We received an e-mail about a year ago from his granddaughter that they were looking at donating some of his paintings to us,” said Linda Aulik, children’s librarian. “We were thrilled; they are very unique to Kewaunee.”
Among the paintings are two of the old drawbridge that spanned the Kewaunee River, she said. There are also paintings of boats in the Kewaunee Harbor and some area farms, including the Wisnicky family farm on Lakeshore Drive.
“I can remember when he was painting here . . .it was about 1989 and I was in my 30s,” said Mike Wisnicky who grew up on the family farm and now operates a beef farm nearby.
“He was a pretty interesting fellow who liked to paint silos and old barns,” he said. “Farming has changed so much and the silo he painted is now falling down.”
Wisnicky said he has seen the paintings displayed at the library and plans to bid on some of them. “They are beautiful . . . really impressive,” he said..
Daggett, who grew up in Madison, joined the faculty in 1946. In addition to his regular teaching duties, he offered an elective course in engineering plastics. He did not know at the time that it was the first engineering plastics course taught in the world. The course went on to be one of the most popular courses for engineering undergraduate and graduate students for more than six decades.
As the years past, Professor Daggett not only taught, but became a researcher and in the late 1950s and 1960s with Dr. Vincent L. Gott of the University of Wisconsin Medical School he co-developed an innovative prosthetic heart valve.
In 1961, Daggett founded Engineering Industries in the basement of an abandoned auto repair shop in Fitchburg. There he developed injection molding techniques for small precision plastic parts, the first being hearing aid battery liners for Ray-O-Vac.
From the beginning, the company acquired his engineering philosophy of solving the problems that no one else wanted to tackle and taking them on to a solution in the form of a finished product.
Daggett began sketching in 1964, according to information provided to the library by his family. For more than 40 years, he developed into a skilled watercolorist, drawing and painting only “on location.” Some of his favorite locations were Madison, Kewaunee and Algoma.
He never used a photo. He would set up his hand-made easel on the Madison campus and along the harbors of Kewaunee County.
The Kacer family of Kewaunee befriended him as he was painting their seed mill, W Seyk, on the Kewaunee Harbor where the gazebo now stands. “My husband’s family became friends with his family,” said Carol Kacer. She said she and her husband, Pat, have the painting of the seed mill and another painting of the city of Kewaunee in their home.
She also said that Daggett was a big supporter of the library, sending them stationery featuring his paintings to use as a fundraiser for many years.
He loved to visit small towns in Wisconsin, and set up his seat and easel “before an evocative village street scene, an old mills, a harbor busy with boats or a railroad yard,” according to the Wisconsin Academy Review who used his art work on a cover of its magazine.
Through the years people would often stop to talk to him while he was working in Kewaunee. “A lot of the older people in the community will know who he is and will remember seeing him painting around town back the 1970s and 80s,” said Pam Roets, who works at the library.
The auction will be held at the Barnsite Retreat and Events Center, 109 Duvall St. in Kewaunee from 2 to 6 p.m. The event is hosted by the Friends of Kewaunee Public Library and wine and beer will be available from von Stiehl Winery and Ahnapee Brewery. All are welcome. The starting bid for the larger paintings will be $125. Questions can be directed to the library at 920-388-5015.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Renowned artist/scientist paintings auctioned