Born in 1902 in Boston, Massachusetts, Frank W. Applebee enjoyed a career as an artist that spanned much of the twentieth century, producing work that ranged from American Scene imagery during the years of the Great Depression, through lyrical forms of representation and experiments with abstraction later in his life. Though a prolific painter, he was chiefly known in the Southeast as the founder and head of the art department at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University. Much beloved and respected as a teacher, Applebee trained generations of artists who passed through his classrooms from 1926 through 1969. While serving as chair of the School of Art and Architecture, Applebee spearheaded the effort in 1948 that brought a significant collection of modern art to Auburn, Advancing American Art, forming the foundation of JCSM’s permanent collection.
The museum is presently undertaking an effort to document Applebee’s prodigious work, and bring deserved attention to his art and to the early history of Auburn University’s art department. The Art of Frank Applebee features paintings from the museum’s collection with selected loans that demonstrate the breadth of his expressive art.