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 Suzanne Schweig Langsdorf Martyl  (1917/18 - 2013)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Missouri/Kansas      Known for: abstract western landscape, magazine cover illustration, murals, botanics

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Ad Code: 3
(Suzanne Schweig Langsdorf) Martyl
from Auction House Records.
Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist.

Martyl Langsdorf, Doomsday Clock Designer, Dies at 96
By WILLIAM YARDLEY
Published: April 10, 2013

Martyl Langsdorf’s clock has yet to strike midnight.

In 1953, with the United States and the Soviet Union testing hydrogen bombs and the cold war increasingly frigid, that ominous minute hand of hers stood just two ticks from the symbolically catastrophic 12. By 1991, after the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it retreated to a relatively reassuring 11:43 p.m.

But the Doomsday Clock, which Mrs. Langsdorf drew for the June 1947 cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as a way to evoke the potential devastation of nuclear weapons, did not stay in reverse. Before Mrs. Langsdorf died on March 26, at 96, the board of the Bulletin, which adjusts the minute hand according to its annual assessments of threats to humanity, had set the clock to 11:55 p.m.

“The challenges to rid the world of nuclear weapons, harness nuclear power, and meet the nearly inexorable climate disruptions from global warming are complex and interconnected,” the board wrote when it moved the minute hand most recently, in 2012. “In the face of such complex problems, it is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address these challenges.”

Mrs. Langsdorf was a painter who specialized in abstract landscapes. Her husband, Alexander Langsdorf Jr., was a physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb. In 1945, as preparations were being made to drop bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dr. Langsdorf and others formed the Bulletin as debate was escalating within the group about what it had created. When the Bulletin converted from a newsletter to a magazine in 1947, Mrs. Langsdorf was hired to design the cover.

“Martyl first considered using the letter U, the chemical symbol for uranium, as her design,” Kennette Benedict, the Bulletin’s executive director, wrote in an essay on its Web site this week. “As she listened more intently to their conversations, though, she soon realized that it was the atomic scientists’ urgency about the looming dangers of this new technology that was most compelling.”

Dr. Langsdorf spent much of the rest of his career at the Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago. When he died in 1996, Mrs. Langsdorf told The New York Times how he had become one of 70 scientists to petition President Harry S. Truman not to use the bomb.

“He thought it was unbelievably inhumane to drop it on an open city and kill so many civilians,” she said.

Mrs. Langsdorf’s career designing magazine covers stopped and started with that first magazine issue of the Bulletin (which declared that it was 11:53 p.m.). She devoted herself instead to her artwork.

When she was 18 she had sold a painting to George Gershwin, and her art sold well throughout her life. Her works (which she signed simply “Martyl”) have been collected by museums in Washington like the National Museum of American Art, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She also painted murals in post offices and other federal buildings for the General Services Administration.

Martyl Suzanne Schweig (her first name is pronounced mar-TILL) was born on March 16, 1917, in St. Louis. Her mother was a painter, her father a portrait photographer. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis.

Mrs. Langsdorf died of complications of a lung infection at a rehabilitative hospital in Schaumburg, Ill., her family said.

She is survived by two daughters, Alexandra Shoemaker and Suzanne Langsdorf; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and a brother, Martin.

Mrs. Langsdorf painted well into her 90s. An exhibition of her work opens at the Printworks Gallery in Chicago in May.

“People would ask her, ‘Are you still painting?’ ” Ms. Shoemaker said. “And she would say, ‘Are you still breathing?’ ”

Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
One-person shows at ACA Galleries, 1942, 1945, 1947; Renaissance Society, 1944; Art Institute of Chicago, 1947, 1976; Brooklyn Museum, 1986.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A plein-air landscape painter in styles of both realism and abstraction, Suzanne Schweig Langsdorf was known as Martyl, a name given to her by her artist-mother, Aimee Goldstone Schweig, for her daughter to use as an artist signature. She lived in Missouri and Illinois, although she traveled widely. From 1945 to 1972, she was art editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and from 1965 to 1970, she was an instructor at the University of Chicago.

Martyl was born and raised in St. Louis, and her natural talents combined with the tutelage of her mother, led to early recognition as a child artist. At age eleven, she won a first prize for drawing at a competition of the St. Louis Art Museum, and the next year she won second prize. Throughout her career, she had numerous exhibition venues including the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, the Royal British Artists Gallery in London, and the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina.

Her mother became her frequent painting and traveling companion, and they went to "many parts of the globe in search of subject matter." (205) One of their early trips together was in 1930, when Martyl was twelve, to Provincetown, Massachusetts. Other trips included New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona where the Grand Canyon was one of the destinations.

Early in her career, Martyl was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) muralist, and two of her murals are in post offices, one titled Wheat Workers in Russell, Kansas, and the other, La Guignolee, in Sainte Genevieve.  Another mural, The Courageous Act of Cyrus Tiffany, completed in 1943, is in Washington DC at the Building of the Recorder of Deeds.

Martyl graduated from Mary Institute in St. Louis and enrolled in Washington University where she studied art and history. In Missouri, she also attended Sainte Genevieve Summer School, which her mother had founded and served as director. In 1940 and 1941, Martyl went to Colorado Springs where she studied at the Fine Arts Center with Boardman Robinson and Arnold Blanch.

In 1941, she married Alexander Langsdorf, Jr., who was a nuclear physicist, and the couple had two daughters. They lived in the St. Louis area until 1943 and then moved to Illinois, living in Chicago, Roselle, and from the 1970s in Schaumburg.

Source:
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born St. Louis, MO, Mar. 16, 1918. Painter, specialized in landscape. Graduated in 1938 from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Studied at Ste. Genevieve (MO) Summer School of Art from 1934-40. Worked summers at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center with Arnold Blanch and Boardman Robinson in 1940 and 1941. Lived in Missouri until 1943 and in Illinois, although she traveled widely. From 1945 to 1972, she was art editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and from 1965 to 1970, she was an instructor at the University of Chicago. Painted the mural, “Wheat Workers”, for the Russell Post Office in 1940.
Source:
COLLECTIONS:
Butler Institute of American Art; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; St. Louis Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art; Colorado Springs Arts Center; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Ste. Genevieve, MO Post Office; Unitarian Church, Evanston, IL.

SOURCES:
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Wiebe, Joanna K. “Kansans Cared About their New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 21, 1972. p.1E & 7E-----. “Local Legends Live in Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 22, 1972. p.1A & 3A-----. “Age Enhances Fort Scott Mural”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 23, 1972. p.1A & 8A-----. “Halstead Legend Perpetuated”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 24, 1972. p.1A & 16A -----. “Scenics, Murals and Lithographs Included in Kansas New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 25, 1972. p.15A.; Kansas Murals and Commemorative Sculpture, compiled by the Woman’s Kansas Day Club. 1974. Typed Manuscript.; Bruner, Ronald Irwin. New Deal Art Workers in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Thesis. University of Denver, 1979.; AskArt, www.askart.com, accessed Dec. 23, 2005; Kovinick, Phil and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick. An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from Butler Institute of American Art:
From an exhibition catalog published by the A.C.A. Galleries in December of 1942:

Martyl was born in Saint Louis in 1918.  She studied color under Charles Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts at the age of thirteen.  Her constant association with visiting artists at a summer school of painting directed by her mother, Aimee Schweig, was very helpful.  She graduated from Washington University and then studied with Arnold Blanch at the Colorado Springs Arts Center.

Martyl has had five one-man shows in Saint Louis since 1936 and has been represented in most of the National exhibitions.  In1940 she was awarded the first prize in the Midwestern Show at the Kansas City Art Institute and won the hundred dollar purchase prize at the Y.M.H.A., Saint Louis.  The following year she was awarded first prize in the annual exhibition of Missouri artists at the Saint Louis City Art Museum.  She has won numerous other awards in the graphic arts.

In the last two years the Section of Fine Arts of the United States Government commissioned Martyl to paint murals in the Post Offices in Russell, Kansas and Sainte Genevieve, Missouri.  Under the W.P.A. she designed and painted a mural in the Clayton, Missouri high school.

The Section of Fine Arts has also purchased her water colors for the Louisiana Naval Marine Hospital and the New York Hospital.  She is represented in the City Art Museum in Saint Louis and many private collections.

From another catalog published by Feingarten Galleries in Chicago in May 1959:

The Art Institute of Chicago has awarded her three major honors, the Frank Armstrong prize, the Mr. and Mrs. Frank Logan medal and prize, and the William H. Bartels Award.


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