Fred Machetanz

Working in the isolated wilderness, Fred Machetanz (1908–2002) produced a body of work that encapsulates the snowcapped mountains and brilliant light of Alaska. His offset lithographs, stone lithographs and paintings capture the flora, fauna and impressions of Arctic Native peoples as he saw them all through the middle of the 20th century.

Machetanz trained in art at Ohio State University, producing several illustrations that were used for football program covers and other collegiate purposes. He also visited and trained with legendary artists like Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish.

Settling in the Matanuska Valley in the early 1950s, Machetanz and his family lived in a cabin northeast of Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska. His artworks are based on outdoor observation and photographs taken during his arctic travels. His oil paintings on masonite use ultramarine blue underpainting, followed by many traditional linseed oil glazes. The use of the deep blue color brought out the coldness of the Alaska Arctic, he said, and set the visual tone for his paintings. His originals are highly sought-after and his reproductions are in demand internationally.

Machetanz’s lithographic process began with a Bavarian limestone. After tracing an initial drawing onto the stone’s surface, he reworked the image with a greasy lithographic crayon. The artist then sent his stones to a New York printer, who, upon completing the printing process, ground the drawings off the stones. Machetanz often explained that his interest in lithography stemmed largely from a desire to capture the nuances of light and dark: “There is a feeling about a lithograph . . . You have to have an interesting and strong pattern of dark and light. When you put tones together right you get greys, that, when contrasted with black and white, feel very rich.” His offset lithographs are silkscreen prints that were taken from these original stone lithographs, and run in editions of a few hundred each.

Following his first solo show at the Anchorage-Westward Hotel in1962, Machetanz was honored with exhibitions throughout the Pacific Northwest. Named Alaskan of the Year in 1977, Machetanz continued to create images of the luminous and rugged North until his death in 2002.

Biographical information from the University of Alaska and the Frye Museum of Art, Seattle, WA.