Alaska Artists: Fred Machetanz

lonely caribou in Alakan Nature

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Fred Machetanz was an Alaskan painter who first came to the territory in 1935, Machetanz used a transparent oil glazing technique starting with an ultramarine blue base, and building up layers from there. This gave his works a cool, luminous quality. He was a strong colorist. He was named Alaskan of the Year in 1977, and American Artist of the Year in 1981 by American Artist magazine.

Fred Machetanz was born in Kenton, Ohio in 1908 and first came to Alaska in 1935 to visit an uncle in Unalakleet, who ran a trading post there. Back home in Ohio, he earned an M.A. degree in art from Ohio State University, and then pursued further study at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League and the American Academy of Art.

During World War II Fred Machetanz served as a Naval intelligence officer in the Aleutians in 1942. He returned returned to Unalakleet after the war was over, in 1946 afterward to marry and settle in Alaska. He married Sara Dunn, a writer, in 1947, and the two settled near Palmer in 1951.

Machetanz achieved his first professional success as a writer and illustrator of adventure books; later he illustrated several authored by his wife, Sara, and became known for his lithographs of Arctic subjects. For several years they also made lecture tours of the “Lower 48” together, presenting their own films on Alaska.

His artworks are based on outdoor observation and photographs taken during his arctic travels. Machetanz produced multiple books, including On Arctic Ice, films, a wealth of paintings, and fifty lithographic works, a full set of which were purchased for the Frye Art Museum by former director Ida Kay Greathouse.

After a highly successful exhibition in Anchorage in 1962, Machetanz began to devote most of his time to painting. In all of his paintings, Machetanz used a traditional technique of transparent oil glazes applied in layers over a painting, usually of white and blue, on masonite.

Since then, he has had numerous one-man exhibitions in Alaska, including two at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, in 1969 and 1974, and others in Seattle, New York and elsewhere. His paintings and lithographs have entered public and private collections throughout the country.

Working in the isolated wilderness, Fred Machetanz produced a body of work that encapsulates the snowcapped mountains and brilliant light of Alaska. On Arctic Ice: Fred Machetanz showcases a selection of stone lithographs produced between 1946 and 1980 that depict the flora, fauna, and people of America’s northernmost state.

Fred Machetanz has received many honors. In 1973, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by the University of Alaska. In 1977, he was named “Alaskan of the Year,” and in that same year a book of his paintings, The Alaska Paintings of Fred Machetanz, was published by Peacock Press of Bantam Books in New York.

At the age of 94, on October 6, 2002, Fred Machetanz died. As Tennys Owens, Fred’s friend and representative remarked recently, “It is definitely the passing of an era up here, as Fred was the last living painter who could paint the Romantic period of Alaska’s history from personal experience. He will go down in Alaskan history as a great fine-arts painter and also as a great art historian.".

Johnny AculiakEdwin Tappan Adney| George Twok Aden AhgupukAlvin Eli Amason| Saradell Ard|   Belmore Browne| Vincent ColyerJules Bernard DahlagerLockwood De Forest| Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh| William Franklin Draper| | Henry Wood Elliott| John Fehringer| Claire Fejes| Louis Agassiz Fuertes| Magnus Colcord Heurlin| Norman Jackson| Rockwell Kent| Sydney Mortimer Laurence| Fred Machetanz| Marvin Mangus| Milo Minock| James Kivetoruk Moses| Rie MunozJoseph Henry Sharp| James Everett Stuart| John Webber| Kesler Woodward|


Fred Machetanz "Mid Morning" oil on board painting

Fred Machetanz "The Tender Arctic" oil painting

Alaska's Tribes:

Below is a full list of the different Alaska Native cultures. Within each culture are many different tribes.

Learn more about Alaskan tribes

Aleut Athabascan Eyak
Haida Inuit Tlingit
Tsimshian Yupik