Glen Heberling was raised in the steel producing region of western Pennsylvania, born in the city of Ambridge (so named after the American Bridge Company) on November 18 th 1915. His father, Henry Austin Heberling was a successful insurance agent, providing for a family of eight who managed to send Alice, his first born to college before the stock market crash and following depression hit. In its wake the insurance business dried up but he was fortunate to gain employment at one of the local steel mills albeit at a much lower wage. Before the hard times, the elder Heberling was able to provide young Glen with trumpet lessons beginning at about the age of twelve, which would serve him well later as a young man. In fact it was quite a musical household that included a piano which several of his siblings would play. His older brother Lyle, taught himself trombone and banjo and worked himself through college by leading his own band. After high school Glen traveled and performed with various "swing bands" including the Eddie McGraw, and Brad Hunt Orchestra's at summer resorts in OH, PA, and NY to help pay for his education and living expenses.
But alas, art not music is Heberling's legacy. Little is known about young Glen's interest in art but his first foray into what would become his ultimate passion was probably painting set designs for his high school drama club.
Heberling's initial formal art training was at the Ad-Art Studios, Pittsburgh in 1935. Then, having caught the attention of Willis Shook, founder of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he consequently moved on to that institution with a full scholarship from 1936 to 1937.
Glen recalled years later that Pittsburgh was a great place for the arts due much in part to the annual Carnegie International Show where one could view works of some of the world's best known artist's. Most fine artists of the time worked with oil, as opposed to watercolor, which was considered the commercial artist's medium. Because of this, American watercolorist Charles Burchfield made a particular impression on Glen, being one to elevate the watercolor medium in the fine art world, a medium that Heberling would embrace throughout his own career.
While studying to be a commercial artist at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Glen accomplished much drawing and watercoloring. But hedging his bets on a professional career as a fine artist he was learning to paint with oil as well.
Besides supporting himself musically as mentioned before, Heberling became assistant to mural painter George Gray, whom he worked for in 1939 and 1940 in Pittsburg, Harrisburg, Erie, PA and Rochester, NY. Basically, he executed Gray's plan in his stead, yet as is common with "ghosting" was uncredited for his contributions.
In 1941 Heberling was drafted into the US army, and because of his musical background was selected to be stationed at the West Point Military Academy as a bugler in the field music division of the West Point Band. The drum and bugle corps there is aptly named the "Hell Cats" because they would "make a racket to wake up the cadets early in the mornings" as Glen would say. And of course revelry and taps were a part of his duties. Heberling was especially proud of a compliment by an officer on "the most beautiful taps he had ever heard."
But never did Heberling's passion for art leave him. Besides always finding time to paint, he drew dozens of charcoal and pastel portraits during this period of fellow bandsmen and their family's for a few dollars a piece. It was during this period, while continuing to paint and develop in the traditional style, which he'd studied previously in Pittsburgh, that he also began expressing himself in the modern abstract genre, a genre that would ultimately become the artist's most prolific in a most prolific career.
Heberling along with other bandsmen traveling by train and ferry would frequently visit New York City, just fifty miles south of the Academy. It was during one of these return travels that Glen met his future wife who was attending the Julliard School Of Music. On the ferry from Manhattan a bandmate informed Glen that the young lady who had caught his eye was from neighboring Highland Falls. Upon asking her name she replied very properly "Miss Murphy". Later he discovered her name was Alice Lydia Murphy and went by Lydia. They were married in Highland Falls in 1945.
Heberling was honorably discharged from the army in 1945 and taking advantage of the GI bill returned to his studies at The Art Students League in New York City in 1946 through 1951. To help make ends meet he gained employment at the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art as a guard. One day while guarding some artifacts that included an ancient bugle he casually mentioned to a fellow employee that he used to play one. Of course that led to a bugle call on the instrument that may have last sounded in ancient Mesopotamia!
In 1946 Glen and Lydia gave birth to their first son Owen.
By 1950 Lydia's parents were getting along in age and health and so invited their daughter and Glen to move into the adjacent apartment of their duplex house in Highland Falls. Ultimately this would be their home for the rest of their lives, where Glen would create hundreds of works in his 3 rd floor studio. By then the entire Hudson Valley had become his studio. Ever since his introduction to West Point Glen was inspired by the Hudson River scenery and would continue to paint subjects along it's shores on-site for years to come. Of course Heberling wasn't only inspired by the Hudson Valley but by all of nature's landscapes. So, even during vacations he would bring his materials along, with time built into the family travels for him to paint. In the early 60's this was often during camping trips to such locations as Arcadia National Park, Maine, and the New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia coasts. Later, in retirement Lydia and Glen continued to travel the United States, heading west and south into Mexico twice, camping much of the way. Not in a cushy RV mind you but with their tent which allowed the couple to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow adventurers, young & old along the way. In 1975, always remaining adventurous, they trekked all the way through Canada to Alaska and back. Landscapes from these retirement travels were created back at the studio from impressions and photographs for the most part.
From 1950 - 1958 Heberling was employed as a fireman at Iona Island NY, slightly down river from West Point, which the Navy was using as a munitions depot. Lydia taught piano, mostly to children after school to compliment their income and was choir director and organist for the local Presbyterian Church.
In 1953 Glen and Lydia gave birth to their second son Eric.
From 1959 - 1971 Heberling was a civilian employed, graphics artist at the West Point Military Academy's department of Earth, Space and Graphic Science. And after the work day at the Academy Heberling taught a painting class at Ladycliff College, a Catholic girls school in Highland Falls from 1960 to 1971.
In 1971, Heberling retired to devote more time to his own fine art. The artist's home became an open house gallery.
In 1992 Glen lost his beloved "Lydy" to cancer. He sometimes expressed his loneliness during this last decade of his life despite the presence of an aspiring much younger "starving" craftswoman who had come to live in his home. Purely a plutonic relationship, they were often at odds and he wished just as often that she would leave, but her need for shelter and his desire for some companionship kept them together under the same roof until his death.
Never-the-less, Glen's psyche was always strong and he fully expected to live to be one hundred. Besides the common aches and pains of growing old, Glen did live in quite good health until his death at the age of 86 while continuing to paint, albeit at a much reduced rate of production right up to the end. In his studio on an easel, a recently begun watercolor landscape is to be his last project.
- Eric Heberling, 2004
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