The Art of Robert Aldern

Our featured artists:

HALL ONE: Thomas Shields
HALL TWO: Mark W. McGinnis
HALL THREE: Carl Grupp
HALL FOUR: Joel Strasser
HALL FIVE: Eyob Mergia
HALL SIX: Robert Aldern
HALL SEVEN: Jerry Aistrup
HALL EIGHT: Dick Krueger
Coming Soon: Mary Selvig, Richard Bresnahan


Bob Aldern
Photo above by Carl Grupp.

Renowned nationally as a master of liturgical art, Robert Aldern rivets his reputation as a painter of the Great Plains with his luminescent landscapes. While his liturgical work, displayed in churches across the country, often emphasize vertical lines to suggest spirituality, Aldern's landscapes are glowing studies of horizontal planes. Aldern numbers among his greatest influences French artists Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, along with Mexican muralist Jean Charlot, with whom he studied and whose style threatened for a time to dominate his own.
Both Sides of  the River
Above: Both Sides of the River
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Aldern grew up on the Great Plains during the Great Depression and recalls running barefoot in the summer among rain-starved vistas that he was later to immortalize in his paintings. His work is often titled simply with the area of the country it represents, but the landscapes are not mere records.

Scrub Alfalfa

Above: Scrub Alfalfa
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His technique, involving layer upon layer of pigment and varnish on masonite, pushes each painting more and more toward the abstract, as though to capture the aura of the place as inseparable from the place itself. The rich colors of the final product are almost gemlike in their depth and luster.

Birds At Dawn

Above: Birds at Dawn
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Photos and digital scans can only suggest the effect produced by viewing Aldern's paintings. The pieces are large, for the most part, bordering on the monumental, and the physical experience of sweeping one's eyes from side to side and adjusting focus to capture the depth of the work, produces a mesmerizing sense of vastness and grandeur.
Above: Dusk
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Lines of demarcation between planes--foreground, middle ground, background, earth and sky--are so subtle as often to seem inconsequential. Like the prairies and the mountains they portray, the paintings seem to defy definition and compass.
Sun Just Starting

Aldern studied with Palmer Eide and Ogden Dalrymple at Augustana College, obtained his BFA at the University of Hartford, Hartford School of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, and has taught at Augustana, South Dakota University at Vermillion, and South Dakota State University at Brookings.

Above: Sun Just Starting
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Currently he is Artist-in-Residence at Augustana. His work is shown widely, and is part of many permanent museum collections. Aldern is the recipient of the South Dakota Governor's Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts and the Spitznagel Award for Artistic Achievement. A triumphant retrospective toured the country in 1998-99.


Above: Waubay
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Other work by Robert Aldern is available on the net at www.frogmans.net (the online presence of Frogman's Press and Gallery in Beresford, SD), and www.augie.edu/dept/art (Augustana), and an excellent video interview is available online at www.sdpb.org/DakotaCast/ (Dakota Life at SD Public Broadcasting).

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Above:Gravelled Road
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All images on this page copyright 2003 by Robert Aldern.