Karl J. Priebe (1914 - 1976)

Birth date: 1914 Death date: 7/5/1976  
Birth location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Death location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin  
Media: 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.


Karl Priebe
Born 1914 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died 1976 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Karl Priebe studied at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee under the tutelage of Gerrit V. Sinclair, before moving on to the Art Institute of Chicago. Life would come full circle as he later became a faculty member at the Layton School of Art, after stints on the staff of the Anthropology department at the Milwaukee Public Museum, and as director of the Kalamazoo Art Museum in Michigan.  He was also a member of the Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors and during the Depression was employed by the Federal Art Project (WPA) at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

In 1947, at the age of 33, Karl Priebe was featured in “Life” Magazine as a leading member in the fantasy school of painting, often known as Surrealism. Six years earlier he won the 1941 Prix de Rome for his “Madonna and Child”, which is now in the Patrick & Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Often called a “fantasist,” Priebe preferred to describe his work as “tempered realism…realism filtered through the imagination.”  His pictures characteristically have a nocturnal, dreamlike quality with subject matter that usually includes birds and African-Americans. Priebe established friendships with such entertainers as Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

Perls Gallery, New York, New York (also 1944, 1946)         
Newman Brown Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
Bresler Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin  (also 1957)
1960  Scottdale, Arizona 
Irving Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (also 1969)
Retrospective Show, Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (also 1979, 1982, 1996) 
Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin   
Fine Arts Salon, Brewery Works, Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Patrick & Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Selected Group Exhibitions

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (also 1948-1945, 1949)   
Chicago Art Club, Chicago, Illinois
David Porter Gallery, Georgetown, Maryland 
Milwaukee Art Institute, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
WI Painters & Sculptures 32nd Annual Exhibition, Milwaukee Art Institute, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1948 59th Annual Exhibition of Watercolors and Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
1948 143rd Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1951 WI Painters & Sculptures 37th Annual Exhibition, Milwaukee Art Institute, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1952 Swiss Chalet Galleries, Bismark Hotel, Chicago, Illinois
1963 Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1965 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Art History Gallery,  Wisconsin
1965 Mitchell Hall-Art Gallery Department, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1974 Bradley Galleries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
1980 Wisconsin New Art Deal, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin
1988 100 Years of Wisconsin Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin
1998 Surrrealism and Its Legacy in Wisconsin Art, Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin
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