Minnesota Painters
Nicholas Richard Brewer, In the Shadow of the Grove, 1910, Collection of Stephen J. Brewer
Nicholas Richard Brewer, 1857-1949
In the Shadow of the Grove,, 1910
Oil on canvas
Collection of Stephen J. Brewer
Click on the image below to enlarge it

Herbjørn Gausta, Moonlit Scene, c. 1908, Private collection Nicholas Richard Brewer, At the Spring, c. 1895, Given in memory of parents Mary C. (Matthewson) and Philip E. Stock

When viewed through the lens of state history, arts education, exhibitions, and commerce gained the support of a growing frontier community with extraordinary speed during the late nineteenth century. Such an achievement was made possible only through the unflagging efforts of visionaries and the support of citizens who saw the viability of their communities closely linked to the aesthetic enrichment of their environment.

Before the turn of the century, Minnesota's art culture was centered in Minneapolis and was a very modest pursuit, initially championed by the ladies of local society. The city's first art exhibition, comprising works from Minnesota collections, opened in September 1878, and within four years, articles of incorporation were drafted for the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts. Officially founded in January 1883, the society set forth two key goals: to advance a love of art through exhibitions and lectures; and (most important for the growth of an art culture) to establish permanent facilities for the exhibition and study of art. The latter objective was realized shortly thereafter when the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts (today's Minneapolis College of Art and Design) opened in April 1886 under the direction of Douglas Volk.

Integral to promoting artistic output in Minnesota were opportunities for exhibition—a means by which artists could gain exposure to the broader public while also gauging their progress among peers. Several artist organizations and commercial galleries in Minneapolis and St. Paul served as small-scale venues. The Minnesota State Fair and, from 1886 through 1893, the Minneapolis Industrial Exposition, provided large-scale exhibition platforms and opportunities for artists to study works by their East Coast contemporaries, as well as those of the old masters.

In addition, Minnesota's aspiring artists (and their peers across America) sought increased levels of training in other major cities. For those fortunate enough to have the means (or a sponsor), study in one of the academies of Europe was the ultimate goal. Although many returned to Minnesota to practice their profession, some pursued professional fulfillment elsewhere while maintaining close ties to the state and its arts community. They, along with those who established themselves here, became the mentors who shaped the next generation of Minnesota artists, thereby building upon the legacy of their artistic forebears.