Max Altekruse was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. An early interest in drawing stemmed from the illustrations in the popular magazines of the time. He was strongly attracted to the craft of draughtsmanship and delighted in copying (in pencil) theSaturday Evening Post covers by Norman Rockwell.
After high school, he attended the Fort Wayne Art School, (the precursor to the FWMoA), where he studied painting under Homer Davisson and composition under Forrest Stark. Following graduation from the Art School he found himself immersed in commercial art world at a local ad agency.
In the summer of 1942, he married his first and only love, Mary Jane (Kathy) Long. Shortly after, Altekruse commenced three years of military service in WWII in the South Pacific. Upon returning home, and at the urging of his wife, he resumed his artistic training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Following PAFA, he studied at the Art Students League of New York under the renowned Frank Reilly where he was subjected to a singular program of "drawing, painting and picture making."
After this intensive period of study, Altekruse turned to the profession of illustration in order to earn a living for his growing family. This resulted in fifty years of working as an "artist for hire". For Altekruse, illustration was an honorable calling, but not totally rewarding. However, they were years of advancement in his craft; executing commissions for Ely Lilly, the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, Goodyear, The Franklin Mint, and many other notable clients.
After retirement from his career in illustration in 1995, and, again, at the urging of his wife, Max Altekruse returned to painting.
Altekruse has received numerous awards and accolades through the decades of his career as an illustrator and artist, including: first prize at the Scarab Club Annual Watercolor Show, Detroit in 1962 and 1963, the Annual Merit Award from the Society of Illustrators in 1980, and selection for the National Parks Academy of the Arts Annual, Top 100 Paintings in 1998 and Top 200 paintings in 2004.
Beyond his personal successes, Altekruse contributed greatly to his community. He taught illustration and composition at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, honing the skills of aspiring artists. In addition, while living in Franklin, he became involved in the historic preservation movement, and subsequently served as president of the Franklin Historical Society. During his tenure, Franklin succeeded in becoming the first community in Michigan to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.