Saturday, December 19, 2015

Max Altekruse (1920-2015)

Max Altekruse was born in 1920 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. As a child he enjoyed copying Norman Rockwell's cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. Decades later he returned to Rockwell-like scenes in his work for makers of collector plates.

At North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Max Altekruse, nicknamed "Blondie," was a member of the Camera Club and won a scholarship in art. After graduating high school in 1938, he attended the Fort Wayne Art School, where he studied under Homer Davisson and Forrest Stark.  He then got a job as a commercial artist at a local advertising agency.

In the summer of 1942, Altekruse married Mary Jane "Kathy" Long and enlisted in the United States Army. Returning stateside after three years in the South Pacific, he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at his wife's urging. He went on to study at the Art Students League in New York City under Frank Reilly.

Altekruse spent fifty years as a commercial illustrator. His clients included Eli Lilly, Ford, Chrysler, Goodyear, the Franklin Mint, the Collectors Studio, and others. For many years he worked at McNamara and Associates, a Detroit advertising agency. He also taught illustration and composition at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. 

After retiring in 1995, Altekruse returned to painting. His awards over the years included first prize at the Scarab Club Annual Watercolor Show (Detroit, 1962 and 1963), the Annual Merit Award from the Society of Illustrators (1980), and inclusion in the National Parks Academy of the Arts Annual, Top 100 Paintings (1998) and Top 200 paintings (2004). 

A resident of Franklin, Michigan, Altekruse was president of the Franklin Historical Society. During his tenure, Franklin became the first city in Michigan to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Max Altekruse died on February 21, 2015.

The Broughton House, a drawing in pencil by Max Altekruse from circa 1980.

Two illustrations by Altekruse from the August 1983 issue of Ford Times.

Max Altekruse served in the U.S. military during World War II. Forty years later, in 1995, he provided this illustration for the cover of the book Weapon Systems.

Altekruse was also known for his illustrations for collector plates. This one is called "Walking in the Rain" and is from the Wonders of Childhood Plate Collection from The Collectors Studio.

Max Altekruse appears to be an undiscovered artist. Considering his fifty-year career, I think there is a lot of his art out in the world, yet little of it seems to have found its way into books or onto the Internet. I would like to correct that oversight. If anyone has art or images by Altekruse, I would like to see it and post it here.

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I have a pic for you,but i dont know how to get it to you?

    1. Jeff,

      Do you mean that you have a digital image you would like to send to me? If so, I would be glad to receive it at

      Terence Hanley