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.
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.
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
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
2008Avant Duck, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA