Featured Acquisition
Artists of the Great Lakes Region

In the last two years, the FIA has increased its holdings of works by artists of the Great Lakes region working between the two World Wars through three important gifts.

In 2014, three works (two paintings and one lithograph) by Bronx-born and Detroit-raised artist Arthur Lehmann were donated to the FIA's collection. A graduate of Cass Technical High School in Detroit, he furthered his education at various Detroit art academies, including Robert A. Hertzberg and the John P. Wicker Schools of Fine and Applied Arts. He was greatly moved by the struggle of the common man, such as seen in his work Delray District-Detroit (1938), and the impact of the labor movement. Inspired by Thomas Benton Hart and Diego Rivera, he joined the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and worked on various commissions under the guidance of Charles Pollack. He was involved in the vibrant Detroit artist community having exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Scarab Club, Detroit Artist Market, and various other Detroit galleries. He accepted a position at General Mills as an illustrator, eventually leaving for other commercial art endeavors in order to raise his family.

Also in 2014, the FIA received two works (a painting and lithograph) by Maurice Merlin. Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Merlin received his early schooling there. In the early 1930s, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, later attending courses at the University of Michigan. After this period, he moved to Detroit, where he was a supervisor in the Federal Art Project (a New Deal project to employ artists). His work was responsible for several innovations in the field of visual aid and graphic arts display. After the outbreak of World War II, Merlin served in the U.S. Army, and then later, after he was discharged in 1946, he worked at an advertising agency in Los Angeles. In his painting No Work Today (1937), the artist captures the despair and anxiety that many felt in the two isolated figures as they confront yet another day of unemployment in a desolate environment.

Twenty-one works (18 works on paper and 3 oil paintings) by Wisconsin artist Joseph Friebert were given to the FIA in 2015. Born in Buffalo, New York, Friebert moved with his family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when he was 3 years old. In 1927, he began studying pharmacy and became a fully registered pharmacist in 1930. His passion, however, was art. Friebert began to exhibit his work in 1935. In 1945, Friebert graduated from Milwaukee State Teachers College, left the field of pharmacy and began teaching art at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he remained employed from l946 until his retirement in l976. Friebert's art reflected the Depression era's concern for the modern human condition. The figures in his dimly lit compositions, such as his Self-Portrait with Cigarette (late 1940s) seem stoic and even melancholy. During his long career Friebert made paintings, prints, sculptures, and murals.

These works join more than 100 works in the Inlander Collection, which is defined geographically, featuring artists who worked in those states surrounding the Great Lakes basin: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. The majority of works in the Inlander Collection are at the FIA on permanent loan from the Isabel Foundation, and the remaining portion were donated by Michael Hall and Patricia Glascock, the collectors who initially assembled the outstanding group of regional paintings.

Arthur R. Lehmann, Delray District - Detroit, 1938

Arthur R. Lehmann
American, 1913–1988
Delray District - Detroit, 1938
Oil on canvas
26 x 34 inches
Gift of the Lehmann Family,
Maurice Merlin, No Work Today, 1937

Maurice Merlin
American, 1909–1947
No Work Today, 1937
Egg tempera on canvas mounted on wood
24 x 30 1/4 inches
Gift of Peter Merlin, 2014.43
Joseph Friebert, Self-Portrait with Cigarette (Landscape on verso), late 1940s

Joseph Friebert
American, 1908–2002
Self-Portrait with Cigarette
(Landscape on verso)
, late 1940s
Oil on Masonite
24 x 17 inches
Gift of the Joseph and Betsy Ritz
Friebert Family Partnership and
Kohler Foundation, Inc., 2015.45
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