Fletcher Martin


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Painter and printmaker. Known for vigorous scenes of American life, particularly western subjects, he was born in the western Colorado town of Palisade, grew up in several locations in the West, and did not finish high school. Following his 1926 discharge from the U.S. Navy, he moved to the Los Angeles area, where he assisted Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros in painting a 1933 mural. Otherwise largely self-taught, Martin came to artistic maturity during the years dominated by the American Scene movement. Much of his early work reflected the social concerns of the time. Particularly powerful, his Mine Rescue (University of Maryland, 1939), designed for a federal art project mural in the Kellogg, Idaho, post office, offended local industrialists, who objected to the somber theme drawing attention to the danger of mine labor. As executed, Martin's revised mural depicts an uncontroversial event in local history: the arrival of the prospector for whom the town was named. Other Martin paintings of about the same time portray labor themes without overt social commentary. The best known of these, Trouble in Frisco (Museum of Modern Art, 1938) depicts a pair of brawling dockworkers, seen through a ship's open porthole. With interest in the American Scene waning from about 1940, Martin intensified the abstraction of form already seen in his work of the late 1930s. He often enhanced such energetic subjects as sport or cowboy life with simplified forms and animated compositions. He also painted landscapes. A war correspondent for Life during World War II, in 1947 Martin built a permanent residence and studio in Woodstock, but subsequently maintained his restless lifestyle as he accepted numerous teaching stints, usually lasting no more than a year or two, at schools around the country. He also produced illustrations, lithographs, and woodcuts. In later years he divided his time between Mexico and Sarasota, Florida. He died at his home in Guanajuato.

Subjects: Art.

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