Joseph Friebert

Year inducted: 2009
1908-2002

Joseph (Joe) Friebert painted in a manner evocative of Old Master techniques. He referred to this as “indirect painting”; he applied glazes and varnishes over canvas or board in order to allow light to reflect back through these multiple layers, providing a luminous effect. Friebert was born in Buffalo but moved as an infant with his family to Milwaukee, where he remained his entire life. His father, a tailor and union organizer, instilled his youngest son with his Socialist beliefs. Thwarted by the Great Depression from his dream of becoming a doctor, Friebert went to pharmacy school at Marquette University. When he was reduced to part-time work, he decided to pursue a favorite hobby: art. He joined a sketch group, where he met artist Betsy Ritz, and they were married in 1937. Friebert subsequently earned degrees in art from Milwaukee State Teachers College and UW-Madison. After a short teaching stint at Layton School of Art, he joined the faculty of MSTW (now UWM) in 1946; he retired from a distinguished teaching career in 1976. In addition to land- and cityscapes, subjects he pursued throughout his career, Friebert was drawn to social issues: racial prejudice, poverty, and refugees. His work was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in the American Pavilion of the 1956 Venice Biennale.

Works by Joseph Friebert