Max Altekruse

Master Painter (1920 – 2015)

Max Altekruse was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  An early interest in drawing stemmed from illustrations in the popular magazines.  He was strongly attracted to the craft of drawing and delighted in copying (in pencil) Saturday Evening Post covers by Norman Rockwell.

After high school he attended the Fort Wayne Art School, and there studied painting under Homer Davisson and composition under Forrest Stark.  Following graduation from the art school he found himself immersed in commercial art at a local ad agency.

In the summer of 1942 he married his first and only love, Mary Jane (Kathy) Long.  There followed three years of service in WWII in the South Pacific.  Upon returning home and at the urging of his wife Kathy he resumed art studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Later he studied at the Art Students League of New York under the great Frank Reilly where he was subjected to a singular program of  “drawing, painting and picture making.”

After this intensive period of study he turned to the profession of illustration in order to earn a living for his growing family through drawing and painting.  This resulted in over fifty years working as “artist for hire”.  For Max illustration was an honorable calling, but not totally rewarding.  However, they were years of advancement in his craft; executing commissions for Ely Lilly, the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, Goodyear, The Franklin Mint, etc.

Max Altekruse also contributed to the education of aspiring artists and to the community in which he lived.  While employed as an illustrator he taught illustration and composition at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan.  While living in Franklin, Michigan, he became involved in the historic preservation movement.  He subsequently served as president of the Franklin Historical Society.  During his tenure Franklin succeeded in becoming the first community in Michigan to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

After retirement from illustration and again at the urging of his wife he returned to painting. Mary Jane (Kathy) Altekruse passed away in May of 2004. Max Altekruse died at the age of 94 in February of 2015. Per Max’s wishes, his eldest son, Peter, began the process of curating the paintings, drawings, and illustrations until his death in 2018. The Max Altekruse Collection is now curated by his younger son, Mark Altekruse.

Mark and his family reside in Boise, Idaho where he continues the work of curating the paintings for the sale of selected originals and archival reproductions.

Why I Paint, by Max Altekruse

Under the tutelage of Frank Reilly I discovered a “sensual delight” in the act of moving paint across the canvas.  This does not, I repeat, does not imply the movement displayed by the abstract and action painters.  The movement of paint I refer to is employed within the confines of “realism”.  But not “photo realism”.  “Photo realism” obscures and erases the charm, and indeed, the sensuality of paint.  I want to preserve that charm.  A quote from a critical review of My Antonia by Willa Cather is appropriate:  “….she makes you realize anew how much art is a suggestion and not a transcription”.  To this I fully subscribe.


  • First Prize, Scarab Club Annual Watercolor Show, Detroit, 1962
  • First Prize, Scarab Club Annual Watercolor Show, 1963
  • Merit Award, Graphic Artists Guild, Detroit 1972
  • Certificate of Merit,  Society of Illustrators Annual, 1980
  • Merit Award, Scarab Club Annual Exhibition 1981
  • Third Prize, Scarab Club Annual Exhibition 1988
  • National Parks Academy of the Arts Annual, Top 100 Paintings, 1998
  • National Parks Academy of the Arts Annual, Top 200 Paintings, 2004