Albert Sterner achieved international recognition as an illustrator, lithographer and painter. A highly prolific artist, he was especially admired for his "sensitive and versatile draftsmanship" and his ability to manipulate line for the "evocation of mood as well as for abstract delight."
Albert Sterner was born in London to an American father and an English mother. After living in Brussels during the early 1870s, his family moved to Birmingham, England in 1874. While attending King Edward's School, Sterner demonstrated an aptitude for art. Upon winning first prize in a drawing contest, he was awarded a scholarship to study drawing at the Birmingham Art Institute.
When his father encountered financial problems in 1878, Sterner was sent to live with relatives in Germany while his parents moved to the United States. After working as a clerk in Gaggenau, Sterner spent six months in Freiburg before finally joining his family in Chicago in 1879. He was associated with the lithography firm of Shober and Carqueville before finding employment with a German by the name of Bertram, where he made drawings of retail merchandise for engraved catalogues. He also worked as an assistant to Walter Wilcox Burridge, a painter of theatrical scenery, and drew illustrations for a weekly publication called the Rambler.
Sterner moved to New York in 1885. He spent 1886 in Paris, studying at the Académie Julian. He also attended classes under Jean-Léon Gêrome at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts. Sterner returned to Paris again in 1891, exhibiting at the salon and painting on his own.
During these years, Albert Sterner did illustrations for periodicals such as Century, Scribner's and Harper's. In 1892, he illustrated the new edition of George William Curtis's book, Prue and I, his first major book commission. Two years later, the one hundred pen-and-ink and wash drawings Sterner made for this publication were exhibited in New York at Keppel's gallery.
In 1895, Sterner embarked on an extended European trip which took him to France, Germany, Italy and England. While in Munich around 1894, he resumed his work as a lithographer, exhibiting his prints at Littauer, a well known gallery in the Odeonplatz. He also contributed illustrations to journals such as Fliegende Blätter and Jugend. He spent part of 1896 and 1897 in Giverny, the famous Impressionist art colony northwest of Paris, where he painted landscapes and figure studies. On this and other trips abroad Sterner came into contact with the latest trends in contemporary European art, especially the Symbolist and Expressionist movements, which inspired his penchant for conveying disquieting psychological effects as well as his direct treatment of form.
Upon returning from Europe in 1898, Albert Sterner moved to Nutley, New Jersey, devoting much of his time to portrait drawings in red chalk and book illustration. During this period, he also worked in watercolor and produced monotypes. Sterner remained in Nutley until 1907, when he settled in Newport, Rhode Island. However, by 1915, Sterner was back in New York, working out of his Gramercy Park studio. He continued to achieve success, exhibiting his paintings and graphic work in major exhibitions. He also had numerous one-man shows in the United States, Europe and Canada. Sterner's professional affiliations included the National Academy of Design (N.A. 1934), the Society of Illustrators, Painter-Gravers of America, the New Society of Artists, the American Watercolor Society, and the Art Association of Newport. After 1924, he spent his summers in Richmond, Massachusetts.
In addition to figure studies and portraits, Albert Sterner painted landscapes in the Berkshire mountains during the late 1920s. His oils, which also included still lifes, were characterized by rich colors and vigorous brushwork. Sterner continued to paint and draw up until his death in New York City at age eighty-three. His son, Harold (1895-1976) also became a painter.
Sterner's work is represented in major collections throughout North America and Europe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the New York Public Library; the Brooklyn Museum; the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Kupferstich Kabinet, Dresden; and the Kupferstich Kabinet Pinakothek, Munich.
The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission from Spanierman Gallery nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery.
Edward Alden Jewell quoted in Albert Sterner, 1863-1946: An Exhibition of Paintings, Pastels, Drawings (New York: Spanierman Gallery, 1968), p. .