National Museum of Women in the Arts
Agnes Martin
March 22 1912 - December 16 2004
Photograph of Agnes Martin, 1992, by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, courtesy of the photographer.
Place of Birth:
American, Canadian
Phonetic Spelling:
AG-nehs MAHR-tehn
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Painter, Printmaker
Abstraction, Minimalism, Other
Artist's Biography:
Agnes Martin’s atmospheric paintings consist of rigid, geometric lines suspended in subtle washes of color. Her work has an ephemeral and spiritual quality and her pieces delicately balance their linear grids over softened areas of neutral and pastel hues.

Martin was born in Macklin, a town in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1912. She grew up in Vancouver, then came to the United States in 1932 and lived in Washington and Oregon until 1940. Martin studied at Western Washington College of Education, the University of New Mexico, and Columbia University. She taught at public schools in Washington, Delaware, and New Mexico during the late 1930s and the 1940s, at the University of New Mexico and Eastern Oregon College, and became an American citizen in 1950.

She alternated living in New Mexico and in downtown Manhattan, where her neighbors included the pop artists Robert Indiana and James Rosenquist, and she exhibited at Betty Parsons Gallery beginning with her first solo show in 1958. Her early style was realistic, shifted to surreal, and finally she reached her formal style of abstract compositions. These pieces were constructed of precise geometric shapes within a measured grid format and led her to be grouped with Minimalist painters Sol LeWitt and Frank Stella, but her aims were very different from these artists. Martin’s works were fragile, delicate, and utilized pale, airy colors. Her work was emotional, spiritual, and tactile- the opposite of the hard-edged, mass-produced rigid forms of the Minimalists. In 1967, the artist settled in New Mexico, where she lived in reclusion for the next three decades and stopped painting for seven years. In 1974, she began to paint again, but with a renewed use of color and switched her palette from pale, pastel shades to bright hues.

Her work has been shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Pasadena Art Museum. She died in 2004 at her home in Taos, New Mexico.

Other Occupation(s):
Teacher, Traveler, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA (1941-1954 intermittently) University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA (1946-1948) Western Washington College of Education, Bellingham, WA, USA (1934-1937)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of Jasper Johns friend of Ellsworth Kelly friend of Robert Rauchenberg friend of Robert Indiana friend of Richard Tuttle friend of Betty Parsons friend of Ad Reinhardt influenced Adrian Piper influenced Louise Fishman
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award, Women's Caucus for Art, New York, NY, USA (2005) National Medal of Arts, President Clinton & National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1998) Member, American Academy and the Institute of Arts & Letters, New York, NY, USA (1989)
Earliest exhibition:
Agnes Martin, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1958)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Inside the Visible
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Artist retrospective(s):
Agnes Martin, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (1992-1993) Agnes Martin: Paintings & Drawings 1974-1990, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (1991) Agnes Martin, Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1973)
Related places
Taos (died at)