Bobleter: A Forgotten Artist Remembered

NEW ULM – Few have heard of Lowell Stanley Bobleter (1902-1973), an educator, painter and etcher, born in New Ulm.

It is more likely that New Ulmers have heard of his grandfather, Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Bobleter, “Father of the Minnesota National Guard,” who served in the Civil and Spanish American Wars, was state treasurer and legislator, served as New Ulm postmaster, founded the New Ulm Review, was a city councilor and mayor of New Ulm…

Yet the younger Bobleter commanded significant and well-deserved fame of his own, especially in the 1930s and 1940s.

Active as a teacher and administrator in the Minnesota art community during the New Deal era, Lowell Bobleter was known for his etchings, and he kept a record book from 1930 to 1942 with descriptions of 193 prints, according to Robert L. Crump’s “Minnesota Prints and Printmakers.”At least 23 more prints have come to light, for a total of 216, according to Crump. Almost all were dry-points, many done on zinc plates instead of copper. The intended editions ranged from 35 to 75, but they were rarely completed, most having less than 10 prints pulled.

Bobleter’s prints appeared in the “Print Collectors Quarterly” and he was featured in their “Fine Prints,” a booklet listing “37 of the most important American print makers,” including John Taylor Arms, Wanda Gag, Armin Landeck, Martin Lewis and Stow Wengenroth.

Bobleter studied at the St. Paul Gallery and School of Art in 1923-25 and privately with George Resler (1882-1954) and Cameron Booth (1892-1980). He received an honorary D.F.A. from the School of Associated Arts in 1965.

Bobleter held memberships in the Society of American Etchers, the Chicago Society of Etchers, the Minnesota Artists Association, the College Art Association of America, the Artists Equity Association, New York, and the National Association of Museum Directors.

He exhibited at the Minnesota State Fair, 1931 (winning a prize), 1933-36 (prizes) and 1938 (prize); the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1933 (prize), 1935-37 (prizes), 1939-40 (prizes), 1939-40 (prizes), 1942-43 (prizes), and 1945 (prize); World’s Fair, New York, 1939; Minneapolis Women’s Club, 1940 (prize), 1941 (prize); Society of American Etchers; Chicago Society of Etchers; National Academy of Design; Library of Congress; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; Corcoran Galley of Art, Washington, D.C.; Art Institute of Chicago; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Philadelphia Society of Etchers; Northwest Printmakers; Seattle Printmakers; and Southern Printmakers.

His work is part of the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York Public Library; Library of Congress; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Smithsonian Institution; Hamline University, St. Paul; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; and California State Library.

Bobleter served as director, St. Paul Gallery and School of Art, 1940-42; superintendent, Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Department, 1941-48; professor of art and chair of the School of Fine Arts, Hamline University, St. Paul, 1942-48; and president, School of Associated Arts, St. Paul, 1948-73.

Imagine the Brown County Historical Society Museum employees’ surprise and thrill when art historian Julie L’Enfant, Ph.D., visited the museum unexpectedly last month, bringing along six Bobleter prints from the collection of the now-closed College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, which Bobleter founded.

The college closed in May 2013, and L’Enfant, a former professor there, and her colleague Maria Santiago, an artist, printmaker and formerly the coordinator of the college’s Print Making Department, were charged with finding new homes for articles from its collection.

L’Enfant had done unrelated work at the BCHS Museum in the past; somehow (no one even remembers exactly how) during the course of this association, Bobleter’s name and local connections had come up.

During her first June visit, L’Enfant was feeling the waters as far as placing the “orphaned” prints.

Needless to say she received a warm reception.

Just a few days later, L’Enfant, this time accompanied by Santiago, brought the rest of the significant donation: 72 unique images in all, many in multiples, well-preserved, inventoried and organized.

L’Enfant and Santiago said they are “delighted” to have found a home for the prints at the BCHS Museum.

It brings them “a peace of mind,” they noted, that the art pieces will belong to an institution with the capability to ensure they remain accessible to the public, just as they were when they belonged to the college founded by their creator.

Other pieces of Bobleter’s work will be exhibited at the Minnesota State Fair, where Bobleter had been superintendent, and can be viewed there, the former professors also noted.

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