Sullivan Goss
AN AMERICAN GALLERY
Celebrating 27 Years of 19th, 20th and 21st Century American Art
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Martha Mayer Erlebacher

(1937-2013)

Contemporary Figurative and Still Life Painter

By Danielle Peltakian

Martha Mayer Erlebacher is a leading painter among contemporary realists. Erlebacher fuses classical techniques with modernist ideals; the results of which are thought provoking vanitas, sumptuously rendered still lifes and skillfully depicted nudes.




Table Of Contents

I. Biography

Martha Mayer Erlebacher was born on November 21, 1937 in Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1961, she married sculptor Walter Erlebacher. They have two children together. She received her MFA from Pratt Institute in 1963. Since her graduation, she has become a major figure in contemporary representational art.

She has had an extensive teaching career at some of Philadelphia’s and New York City’s premier art schools, including the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, and the New York Academy of Art. She has also guest lectured at Yale University, Vassar College, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts. Among other prestigious honors and awards, she was awarded a Senior Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982.

As a leading American Realist painter, Erlebacher has shown extensively in many principal galleries in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia throughout the past four decades. She has also been included in numerous museum exhibitions across the nation, surveying such subjects as figurative art, American women artists, and the Philadelphia art scene. In addition to being included in many prestigious private collections, her work is also featured in over a dozen national museums, including such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.

II. SGTV Video

"Martha Mayer Erlebacher: Emblems of Desire"
Written by Frank Goss
Narrated by Susan Bush and Nathan Vonk
Produced by Nathan Vonk

This video accompanied the artist's exhibit which was on view from February 4 through May 2nd, 2010.

To watch this video click on the image to the left.


III. An Analysis of the Artist's Work

“I try to make art, which reaffirms to the viewer that there is a value in human life. It should give the sense that one is not alone, and that one is part of a group with similar needs, longings, hopes, dreams, fears and desires which transcend time (the subjects of art)." – Excerpt from Martha Mayer Erlebacher’s “Artist Statement”

Martha Mayer Erlebacher is a noted American painter, winning numerous awards and honors for her talent as a figurative painter. In the manner of great American Realist Thomas Eakins, Erlebacher demonstrates her mastery of the human form in her powerful, large-scale paintings of nudes and draped figures. While grounding much of her life’s work in the tradition of the great Italian and French masters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, she incorporates her own knowledge of modernism by questioning the origin and value of human life in her paintings. Believing that “the human experience is the proper subject matter of art,” Erlebacher paints timeless nudes that offer insight into the emotions and complexities inherent in all human beings. Though a teacher of the stern Realist style, she incorporates a masterful technique that never fails to subtly allude to the duality of the unadorned nude, which is at once, both sensual and noble.

The artist’s astute skill is also apparent in her sumptuously painted still lifes and romantic, modern-day vanitas paintings. Her handling of light and contrast combined with her keen sense of beauty transforms everyday objects into subjects of intrigue. Recently, Erlebacher has found inspiration in a ceramic duck in her series titled Avant Duck: A Fowl History of Modern Art. As Curator Susan Bush states, “For the artist [Erlebacher] the bird serves as a consistent tool to portray her understanding of history, technique, and composition, all with tongue planted firmly in beak.” Through her clever disguising of the Avant Duck as the life-spring of modernism, Erlebacher succeeds in elevating a kitschy icon into a noble object of fascination.

Whether in her nudes, still lifes, vanitas paintings, or even behind the veil of the modernist Avant Duck, the artist’s balanced synthesis of classicism and modernism shines through, ultimately allowing for her own place in the contemporary art world.

IV. Education

  • 1955-56 Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA
  • 1956-60 Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, Bachelor of Industrial Design
  • 1961-63 Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, Master of Fine Arts
  • V. EXHIBITIONS

    Solo Exhibitions (selected list)

  • 1967 The Other Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1973, 1975 Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, NYC
  • 1976, 1983 Dart Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 1978 Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1978 Dart Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 1978 The Morris Gallery, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1978, 1980, 1982 Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, NYC
  • 1983 Dart Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 1983 Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC
  • 1985 Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, NYC
  • 1987 J. Rosenthal Fine Arts, Chicago, IL
  • 1989 Koplin Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
  • 1993 Fischbach Gallery, NYC
  • 1993 The More Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1995 Fischbach Gallery, NYC
  • 1997 Art Institute of Southern California, Ettinger Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA
  • 1997 The More Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1998 The Studio Gallery, Academy of Realist Art, Seattle, WA
  • 1999 Hackett-Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2000 The More Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2001 The Arnot Museum, Elmira, NY
  • 2002 Hackett-Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 2003 Forum Gallery, NYC
  • 2005 Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2006 Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Altoona, PA
  • 2007 Cultural Arts Building Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC
  • 2008 Avant Duck, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2010 Emblems of Desire, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 2012 Martha Mayer Erlebacher and the American Still Life, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Group Exhibitions (selected list)

  • 1960 Brooklyn and Long Island Artists, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1967 Self Portraits, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1971 The Contemporary Figure: A New Realism, Suffolk Museum, Stony Brook, NY
  • 1972 Realism Now, New York Cultural Center, NY
  • 1973 American Drawing 1970-73, Yale University Art Gallery, CT
  • 1974 Woman’s Work- American Art, Philadelphia Civic Center, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1974 Living American Artists and the Figure, Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  • 1975 Drawing America, Albrecht Museum, St. Joseph, MO
  • 1976 Philadelphia- Three Centuries of American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1976 Woman Artists Here and Now, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN
  • 1976 Museum Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • 1977 Still Life, Boston University Art Gallery, Boston, MA
  • 1977 New in the Seventies, University of Texas, Austin, TX
  • 1977 Drawing of the Seventies, Art Institute of Chicago, IL
  • 1978 The Last Three Years: A Selection of Recent Acquisitions, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1979 Contemporary Drawings: Philadelphia II, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1979 16 Realistas, Centro Colombo Americano, Bogota, Columbia
  • 1980 Realism and Metaphor, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
  • 1981 Still-Life, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
  • 1981-3 Still Life Today, Goddard Riverside Community Center, NYC (traveling exhibition)
  • 1983 Representational Drawing Today: A Heritage Renewed, University Art Museum, Santa Barbara, CA (traveling exhibition)
  • 1984 Woman, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, IL
  • 1984 20th Century American Prints and Collages, New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
  • 1985-6 American Realism: 20th Century Drawings and Watercolors from the Glenn C. Janss Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (traveling exhibition)
  • 1987 Studied from Life: Paintings by Contemporary American Artists, Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • 1989 Faculty Drawing, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1991 Exquisite Painting, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL
  • 1993 Works by Women Artists, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • 1996 Landfall Press: Twenty-Five Years of Printmaking, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
  • 1999 Contemporary American Realist Drawings, The Jalane and Richard Davidson Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • 2002 The Perception of Appearance, A Decade of Contemporary American Figure Drawing, The Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA
  • 2005 Masters of Illusion: 150 Years of Trompe L’Oeil in America, Kresge Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
  • 2006 Why the Nude?, Contemporary Approaches, Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery, The Art Students League of New York, NY
  • VI. Collections

  • Albrecht Museum of Art, Saint Joseph, MO
  • Ashville Art Museum, Asheville, NC
  • Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, IL
  • Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
  • Canton Museum of Art, OH
  • Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, CA
  • Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • Fort Wayne Museum, Fort Wayne, IN
  • Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
  • Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  • New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
  • Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, CA
  • Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, PA
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • Racine Art Museum, Racine WI
  • University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN
  • University of Michigan Art Gallery, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Weatherspoon Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC
  • Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
  • VII. Awards

  • 1960 Dean’s Medal, Highest Scholastic Achievement, Pratt Institute
  • 1966, 1973 Yaddo Fellowship
  • 1967 Bertha Shay Award, Cheltenham Art Center, Cheltenham, PA
  • 1973 Netsky-Sernaker Memorial Prize, Cheletenham Art Center, Cheltenham, PA
  • 1974 Vivian and Mayer P. Potamkin Prize, Cheltenham Art Center, Cheltenham, PA
  • 1978 Ingram Merill Foundation Grant
  • 1982 Senior Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
  • 1986 Adjunct Professor of Art, the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1987 Mellon Venture Fund Grant, the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1988 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in the Visual Arts
  • 1993 Commencement Speaker, The Graduate School of Figurative Art of the New York Academy of Art
  • 1996 Outstanding Teacher Award/ Oil, American Artist Magazine
  • 2010 Award for Excellence in the Arts, Newington-Cropsey Foundation, NY
  • VIII. TEACHING

  • 1962 Art League, NYC
  • 1964-65 Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
  • 1965-66 Parson’s School of Design, NYC
  • 1966-68 Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1975-78 Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1986 La Napoule Art Foundation, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
  • 1978-93 University of the Arts, PA
  • 1992-06 Graduate School of Figurative Art of the New York Academy of Art, NYC
  • IX. BIBLIOGRAPHY

    1. 1. Avant Duck: A Fowl History of Modern Art, Santa Barbara, CA: Sullivan Goss- An American Gallery, December 1- January 27, 2007.
    2. 2. Between Heaven and Earth: The Paintings of Martha Mayer Erlebaccher, Altoona, PA: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, February 10- April 30, 2006.
    3. 3. Martha Mayer Erlebacher, Elmira, NY: Arnot Art Museum, February 9- March 18, 2001.
    4. 4. Martha Mayer Erlebacher Paintings, New York, NY: Forum Gallery, November 13- December 13, 2003.
    5. 5. Martha Mayer Erlebacher, Philadelphia, PA: The More Gallery, March 27- May 9, 1998.

    X. WORKS FOR SALE BY THIS ARTIST