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'The Art and Soul' of Alba Goebel

Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:11 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:17 p.m. CST
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Alba Goebel

PRINCETON — The Prairie Arts Council will present its May gallery special exhibit titled “The Art and Soul” of Alba Goebel. The exhibit will begin with an opening reception to meet the artist from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The public is invited.

In 78 years of portrait painting, Alba Goebel of Chillicothe has mastered the art of imbuing every image with the spirit of her subject. Her skills are so palpable, a grieving mother who commissioned a portrait of a deceased child once walked into Goebel’s house, looked at the portrait and fainted.

Goebel grew up in Italy and when young, always dreamed of pursuing her passion to paint; however, because her military father was stationed in a tiny town in Southern Italy, she knew something very dramatic had to be done or she would never have the chance to be trained properly. She quietly devised a plan to get a message to Italy’s Crown Prince Umberto’s wife wrapped in a portrait of the young princess. The message requested that her family be transferred to Florence so she could pursue her art studies. Because the princess loved the portrait, within months they were transferred and her formal training began.

During World War Two, Goebel began her professional career painting American soldier’s portraits for $10. Her sister managed the details and it was a successful arrangement until her sister married an American and moved to Washington, Ill. Alba followed her to America to help when her sister’s baby was born. Shortly after she arrived, she met the proverbial boy- next- door, William Goebel, and they were married in 1947. While Alba pursued her painting career, William worked at Caterpillar Inc. for 41 years. In those 41 years, Alba estimates that she painted well over 1,000 portraits. Her works hang in private collections, offices, public buildings and museums. Those who have been lucky enough to view her work often remark about the transformative quality of her portraits, “the eyes seem alive and the faces have great color, light and expressions.”

Sadly, a year after the loss of her husband, glaucoma and macular degeneration, set in and her vision was reduced to the point where she can no longer paint, but her wonderful love of life remains and her portraits will live on forever.

The “Art and Soul of Alba Goebels” exhibit is open and free to the public and will be available for viewing from May 4 through June 1 at the Prairie Art Council Gallery, located at 24 Park Ave. East in Princeton. The gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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