Ernest Gruening

by Fred Machetanz
1967 oil on masonite 27 x 21

After receiving his Masters degree in art from Ohio State University in 1935, Machetanz came to Alaska on invitation from his uncle, Charles Traeger. After some time in Unalakleet, where Traeger ran the trading post, Machetanz had a portfolio of sketches. He went to New York in hopes of landing a job illustrating books on Alaska with his material. Eventually he wrote and illustrated his own books and these allowed him a nomination into the Explorer’s Club. 1940 a Coast Guard admiral invited him to join the patrol and sail from Ketchikan to Barrow. The sketches and impressions from this journey would serve him in his later works.

During World War II, Machetanz served in the Navy in the Aleutian Islands. He became lieutenant commander of intelligence for the North Pacific. He married Sara Dunn in 1947, and together the couple collaborated with such illustrious groups as Encyclopedia Britannica, Walt Disney, and the Territory of Alaska. They travelled the US on a lecture circuit before the birth of their son.

Machetanz is known for the predominance of sharp blue tones in his work. These are due partly to the glazing technique which is his trademark. Much of his work is executed on Masonite, using zinc for an extraordinary effect of light, which lends to his paintings a romantic, soft tone.