Joseph Friebert enjoyed a distinguished career as an artist and an influential teacher at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. His overriding concern for the human condition is especially evident in his Social Realist compositions.

This brooding quality also imbues his land- and cityscapes of the period. Friebert subsequently switched to a semi-abstract style, breaking urban forms into blocks of glowing, dusky colors. Symbolic figural compositions express his dismay at political and social ills during the Cold War. His final paintings are brighter and looser. In 2015–16, a gift of sixty-seven works established MOWA as the largest repository of Friebert’s oeuvre.