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Arthur Lindberg: An American Realist

Buffalo-based painter Arthur Lindberg (1895-1977) is an anomaly. Lindberg, who was born in Wooster, Massachusetts, and schooled in New York City, produced a body of workmanlike landscapes and portraits that are respectable in their execution. His technical expertise got him commission work. He taught locally, and served as president of the Buffalo Society of Artists from 1954-1955.

What sets him apart from other, similar artists, though, are the works Lindberg painted for a 10-year period beginning in the 1940s. These sought-after paintings, showcasing Western New York’s waterfront, grain elevators, and industrial architecture, memorialize an important moment in our regional heritage. They are the result of an artistic epiphany, earning Lindberg an important place in the canon of our area’s art history.

In 1939, as detailed in the exhibition catalog, Arthur Harold Lindberg: Romantic Industrial Landscape Painter Rediscovered (Linda Hyman Fine Arts, 1987), Lindberg was visiting in-laws in Buffalo. According to his wife, he was struck by the “immense visual impact of the industrial landscape along the Buffalo River, Lake Erie, and the entire Niagara Frontier.” It “just bowled him over.”

The Lindbergs moved to Buffalo in 1941. Lindberg taught art at Kenmore Senior High, and worked in the factories during the summer in defense production.

After the war, he obtained permission from the City of Buffalo to enter industrial sites which had been previously restricted, and executed the bulk of this series.

Many outstanding artists have incorporated Western New York’s waterfront and industrial architecture into their work, including Kevin O’Callahan, James Vullo, Anthony Sisti, and Ralston Crawford.

Paintings of Lindberg’s, like Huntley Station, General Mills, and Marine Elevator A, capture the urban beauty in these industrial monuments. They rise to join works by some of the region’s finest artists.

Lindberg became increasingly frustrated by the emphasis on abstract art in Buffalo artistic circles. From the mid 1950s on, he refused to exhibit his work in such an environment. It was not unusual for artists working in a realist style to be marginalized at the time.

Yet, the worth of those evocative works has been proven time and again. Many of these industrial landscapes have been purchased by out-of-town dealers and collectors, who recognize the universal quality and American historical value in this output.

Lindberg’s architectural depictions show an insider’s understanding of their subject. They are quintessentially “Buffalo” in their mood and the emotional response they generate. These feelings are experienced, even more so, by those of us who realize the role these iconic structures provide as the backdrop for our everyday lives.

Dean Brownrout is president of 20th Century Finest (, dedicated to researching and trading in artwork by historically important, regional artists of the 20th century.

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