ARTISTS: Fletcher Martin (1904-1979)
Fletcher Martin was remarkable in his time and would be so now. He grew up poor in isolated, rural areas of America with no cultural opportunities, never seeing formal art until he was in his late teens or early twenties. He did not graduate from high school. Many artists started this way but Martin is unique in that he launched an art career during the Depression at the age of thirty, and it is as if he had sent up a rocket. His first exhibit, a show of woodcuts in 1933 at the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries in Los Angeles, was followed in 1934 by a one man show at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. The show was an instant success, creating momentum that would ensure his future.
In seven short years Fletcher Martin had a one man show in the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, created the North Hollywood High School auditorium mural (a WPA Art Project), won a competition for a mural in the Federal Building in San Pedro, California, and began teaching at The Art Center School in Los Angeles. During the same period the Museum of Modern Art in New York purchased his painting Trouble in Frisco for its permanent collection, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York purchased his painting, Juliet.
Martin was born in Palisade, Colorado in 1904. His father moved the family every few years, buying up small newspapers throughout Colorado, Idaho, and Washington. The whole family worked on the papers and Martin learned everything about printing; useful as a trade but even more so for an artist. He escaped home at fifteen, supporting himself as a migrant worker, traveling the rails on boxcars across Washington and Oregon. To his credit, instead of feeling that life had treated him badly he immersed himself in the adventure and began a long process of self-education in what he termed “Osmosis University.”
The years in Osmosis University saw him serve in the Navy as a signalman, take up boxing, begin drawing and painting to entertain his shipmates, and work as a printer. He also befriended artists and intellectuals of the day such as the famous Mexican muralist David Siqueiros, William Saroyan, Nathaniel West, and Budd Schulberg. By the time he graduated he had no pretensions- he did the work that art demands wherever he found himself. His first love was painting, but he also set type on posters, created frescoes, and designed bas-relief sculpture panels for a county courthouse. Later in life he illustrated a number of editions of books that included Jack London’s The Sea Wolf and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Sports Illustrated had him document the second Rocky Marciano-Ezzard Charles fight, and he even documented the production of newsprint for Fortune magazine.
In 1943 Martin accepted a Life assignment to work in North Africa and Tunisia as a World War II artist-war correspondent. In 1944 he was also sent to cover Normandy and spent time during heavy V2 bombings in London. Drawings and prints from this period are included in this exhibit, as well as an unusual and somber painting, The Subway Sleepers, thought to be drawn from the 150 foot deep shelter under the Cumberland Hotel in London.
During his lifetime Martin held prestigious positions as artist-in-residence at universities and exhibited in many one man shows. His war drawing, The Scream, would be added to the Metropolitan’s collection, and Cherry Twice would become part of The Whitney Museum of American Art collection in New York. The commissions and prizes piled up and the self-taught painter became a National Academician who once moved with his family in a covered wagon on the plains, was commissioned by NADA, only four years before his death, to document the launch of Apollo-Soyuz test and the Viking probe preparation at Cape Kennedy.
Metropolitan Museum; Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Library of Congress; Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City; Los Angeles Museum; Florida Gulf Coast Art Center; Cranbrook Museum; Davenport Museum; Denver Museum; Carleton College in Minnesota; Houston Museum; State University of Iowa; Tweed Gallery; International Business Machines; Addison Gallery of American Art; Brandeis University; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; San Francisco Museum; Albany Institute of History and Art; Los Angeles County Fair Association; Witte Memorial Museum; Butler Institute of American ; University of Maine.
Awards and Prizes:
1935: First Los Angeles Museum Prize; 1937, 1938,1939 United States Government Section of Fine Art Awards for Murals in San Pedro, California, La Mesa, Texas; Kellogg, Idaho; 1939 Second Los Angeles Prize; 1947 Lippincott Prize at Pennsylvania Academy; 1949 Altman Prize at National Academy; 1953 Clark Prize at National Academy; 1951 Merit Award at Art Directors Club of Chicago; 1953 Gold Medal at Philadelphia Art Directors Club; 1955 The Art Directors Club Gold Medal.
Exhibited at all important national exhibitions:
Carnegie; Corcoran; Metropolitan Museum; National Academy; Pennsylvania Academy; Americans 1942 at Museum of Modern Art; Venice Biennale; Touring exhibitions in England, France, Italy, South Africa, and Central and South America; Twenty-five one-man shows in museums and galleries in the United States.
Teaching Appointments and Assignments:
Art Center School in Los Angeles; Artist in Residence at University of Iowa; Director of Painting at Kansas City Art Institute; Art Students League; University of Florida, Visiting Professor of Art; Mills College; Albany Institute of History and Art; Claremont College; University of Minnesota ; Castle Hill Foundation at Ipswich Massachusetts; San Antonio Art Institute; Northern Michigan College; Washington State University; Institute de Arte Cozumel, Mexico; Member guiding faculty, Famous Artists Schools.