Joseph Friebert (1908 - 2002)

Birth date: 1908 Death date: 2002  
Birth location: Buffalo, New York Death location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin  
Media: Graphic Art , Painting Web site:
Comprehensive (file rating) - Major Wisconsin artist file that includes comprehensive documentation on artist's life that can be researched on site at MWA.

Biographical Brief

Wife: Wisconsin artist  Betsy Ritz Friebert
Daughter: Wisconsin artist Judith Friebert
Brother: Wisconsin artist Edward Friebert 
Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, Wisconsin and permanent collections in many other museums
2009: one of the recipients of a Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award


Joseph Friebert
Born 1908 in Buffalo, New York
Died 2002 in Milwaukee
Although born in New York, Joseph Friebert grew up in Milwaukee in a Jewish working class family where his father was a tailor and a union organizer. This social activism is quietly reflected in Friebert’s early art where he displays empathy and sorrow without anger. Social concerns, the human universals of loss and vulnerability after two world wars, the Great Depression and the Cold War give Friebert’s art a narrative character.
Nevertheless, Friebert’s artistic career was rather unconventional.  After high school he went on to become a registered pharmacist working at the Oriental Pharmacy in Milwaukee. Because Friebert could support himself as a pharmacist he was not eligible for the W.P.A. program during the Depression. Consequently, he joined the Businessman’s Art Club and began his career as an artist in 1932. He studied with Gerrit V. Sinclair at the Layton School of Art where he would later teach art and also studied with Robert von Neumann and Ruth Grotenrath. After earning a degree in art education in 1945, Friebert joined the UW–Milwaukee art faculty. He earned his Master’s degree at UW-Madison in 1951 and became a full professor in 1957. Friebert continued to teach at UW-Milwaukee until his retirement in 1976.
Although Friebert was a printmaker, painting was his main choice of media and reflects his knowledge of the Old Masters with underpainting and layers of glazes that give depth and luminosity. He paints the human form in many different environments but there is little interaction between them. Art critic James Auer calls this Friebert trademark “layering of history, social conscious, with rich evocative pigments.” During his art career, Friebert also served on the board of the Milwaukee Artist’s Guild and was a member of the Walrus Club and Wisconsin Painters & Sculptors.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

Joseph Friebert, Milwaukee Art Museum (exhibition catalog by Dean Sobel)
1998  Joseph Friebert at Ninety, Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI.

Selected Group Exhibitions

1938 - 1950s
Exhibition by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, The Art Institute of Chicago
1938, 1939   Great Lakes Exhibition, museums in Buffalo, Rochester, N.Y., Toronto, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee
1938  American Paintings and Sculpture, the Art Institute of  Chicago (also 1954 and 1957)
Layton Art Gallery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee State Teacher's College/ UW-Milwaukee
1947 Annual Exhibition of American Painting, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA (also 1951, 1955, 1957, 1960)
1950 American Painting Today, The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, New York, N.Y.
1951, 1954   Annual Exhibition of American Painting, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA.
28th Biennale: American Artists Paint the City,  Venice, Italy
1957 Annual Exhibition,  Whitney Museum Of American Art
133rd  Annual Exhibition,   National Academy of Design, New York, NY
1960 Milwaukee Art Center
1965 Fifty Years Of Wisconsin Art, Milwaukee Art Center
1969 Milwaukee State Teacher's College/ UW-Milwaukee
1972 Bradley Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1977 Milwaukee State Teacher's College/ UW-Milwaukee. Two Retrospective Exhibitions: George Goundi Sculpture, Joseph Friebert Paintings. UW-Milwaukee Fin Arts Galleries
1979 Bradley Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1981 Bradley Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1984 Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1985 Bradley Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
100 Years Of Wisconsin Art, Milwaukee Art Museum
1993 The Jewish contribution In Twentieth-Century Art, Milwaukee Art Museum (catalogue)
1993 - 1997 Galleria del Conte, Milwaukee, WI.
1994 Wisconsin Artists: A Celebration Of Jewish Presence, Haggerty Museum Of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. (catalogue by Curtis L Carter and Johann J.K. Reusch)
1996 - 1997
Painters Of The Great Lakes Scene, shown at Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts: Flint Institute of Arts (catalogue by Michael Hall)
1996 - 1997
Self –Portraits: Wisconsin Artists, Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI. (catalogue by Fred Berman)
1997 Temple Emanu-El, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Monotypes by Joseph Friebert: Sculpture by Adolph Rosenblatt


1989, Nov. 12
            Friebert Show Displays Vibrant Depth, by James Auer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
            1991, Jan. 15 – March 15
            Seven Artists: A History , by John Gruenwald, Art Muscle
            Joseph Friebert: the UWM Bookstore Calendar For 1992, featuring 16 reproductions of his work. By Joy Gross    Berman
            1995, Dec. 21
            Friebert Paints Life’s similies, by Nathan Guequierre, Shephard Express
            Joseph Friebert Talks With Xavier Baron, videotape by Xavier Baron.

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