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Margaret Lefranc and Michael Preble

Grasses (1990), a monotype by Margaret Lefranc [1], was created in Santa Fe at Pokrasso Graphics Workshop. In 2009 Michael Preble [2], Curator, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, Virginia (PFAC) celebrated the life and work of Margaret Lefranc over an extraordinarily productive fifty-year period. Preble stated, “A few monoprints have been included in the exhibition, An American Original:  Margaret Lefranc, Fifty Years of Watercolors [3] to demonstrate her prowess with the most immediate of print processes.”


“My first introduction to the work of Margaret Lefranc was through a…DVD, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc [4]. Interspersed with live interviews and images, the film retells her remarkable art adventure that took her from New York to Berlin, Paris and back to many journeys throughout the United States. I was further introduced to her work through the grand publication, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc by Lois Katz, former curator of the Brooklyn Museum and Arthur Sackler Collections.” 


“In viewing these two sources and in my subsequent study of the work, several qualities struck me as exceptional characteristics of Lefranc’s work, and thus, my sense of her “originality.”  Though she was not endowed with the notoriety given to other modernist painters, such as Burchfield, Marin and Dove, she has done what they in fact failed to do. Rather than create a new vanguard for painting, she took their principles and spirit, and those of cubist painters, and incorporated them into her vision of a more familiar tradition of portraiture and landscape painting. In other words, the cubist plane was combined with traditional modeling or spatial perspective to create intriguing and unique works. I found Lefranc’s watercolors to be particularly energetic…The watercolors seemed to have the best of what watercolor can offer—a strong painterly quality, an understanding of drawing, a sense of color that the great color theorist Paul Gauguin would appreciate—and notwithstanding, a strong sense of place. If there are lessons to be learned in the art of Margaret Lefranc, I offer these: Experience counts. You can’t paint if you can’t draw.  Don’t let anyone tell you so.”


Acadia Lighthouse (2000) was photographed by Michael Preble, a full-time curator whose business and interests take him to interesting places and spaces where he takes his Nikon to embrace chaos, eccentricity and irony in color or black and white. “It’s all about light and space, serial imagery, visual surprises, asymmetry and unusual vantage points, capturing the family as an uncommon experience.”


Michael Preble, a consummate museum professional, received an internship at the Met in New York City, and the then National Collection in D.C. At the latter, he focused on the work of William Baziotes and in 2003 guest curated a major retrospective at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy. Presently he is the Editor of the William Baziotes Catalogue Raisonne. Educated at Cornell and California State University, Michael was Deputy Director for Programming at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock including a senior curator position and also at the Portland Museum of Art, Maine; the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, as well as others including the PFAC in Newport news from which he retired from the position he held since 2004.  Having worked with Betty Anglin from PFAC and from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, and having met Sandra McKenzie, the Margaret Lefranc project came to life. The exhibition also traveled to St. George Museum in Utah. 


Continuing his life-long work on the William Baziotes Catalogue Raisonne since the 1980s, Michael Preble also continues a parallel active career in photography where he shows at galleries throughout the Deep South and Mid-Atlantic states as well as being an exhibiting member and co-curator at the Artists Workshop Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.


[1] Margaret Lefranc (1907–1998).

[2] Michael Preble (1947– ), Curator, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, Virginia (PFAC), 2004–2013, and photographer.

[3] A traveling exhibition from PFAC to St. George Art Museum, St. George, Utah from November 5, 2009 through June 2010.

[4] DVD, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, edited and directed by Sandra McKenzie, President of the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation.

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