More Than a Constructive Hobby

The Paintings of Frank Freed

978-0-89090-073-4 Paperback
8.75 x 11 x 0 in
108 pp. 44 color plates., 63 b&w illus.
Pub Date: 01/01/1997


  • Paperback $19.95
Frank Freed (1906–75) painted vignettes of daily life, ideas, and emotions in relative obscurity for nearly thirty years in a style typically categorized as "naive" or "folk" art. More Than a Constructive Hobby surveys the Houston businessman/artist’s work and shows how it was informed by sophisticated observations and an intense love of literature.

Freed was born in San Antonio in 1906, the only child of German-origin Jews, but spent most of his life in Houston. After World War II, he took advantage of the GI Bill to enroll in a basic painting class.

Although he created art for his own pleasure in Houston, far removed from the nation’s northeastern cultural center, Freed’s best work fused two honorable traditions, combining the cultural commentary of such artists as Honoré Daumier and Ben Shahn with the style of "naive" or "folk" art set by the Douanier Rousseau, Horace Pippin, and John Kane.

With the overwhelming art energy centered in New York, Houston artists like Freed received little attention.

Compiled to accompany a 1996 exhibition of his work by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, More Than a Constructive Hobby redresses that neglect. Freed’s gentle humanism imbues his compositions; he recorded the social mores of his times, using his friends and local environment to mirror the larger issues of his day. On the rare occasions that he addressed greater historical events, such as the horrors of Auschwitz or the strife of the civil rights movement, he did so in human terms, looking to the individual to express the whole.

Published by Museum of Fine Arts, Houston