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 Marvin Blackburn Martin  (1907 - 1963)

About: Marvin Blackburn Martin


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Lived/Active: Illinois/Colorado      Known for: sculptor-figure, bas relief-history

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is excerpted from an article, 2001, "Establishing The Sculpture Program at the University of Illinois", by Glen Martin, son of the artist, who submitted the information to AskART in March 2004.

Marvin Blackburn Martin was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1907. Soon thereafter the family moved to northwestern Colorado on what was then some of the last public domain land opened for homesteading. His interests in art developed as a result of natural talent and his capacity to appreciate the visual power of the region's wild landscapes. As his artistic skills developed during high school and with encouragement of teachers and family, he decided to pursue art as a career. He entered the Kansas City Art Institute in 1925, where he was subsequently awarded scholarships and served as an assistant instructor. He also became an illustrator for the "Kansas City Star" newspaper and served as staff artist. During this period Martin
enrolled in sculpture classes at the Institute and thus found his calling and a lifelong commitment to sculpture.

During his formative years Martin traveled to Mexico and across the United States to further his exposure to sculpture and to meet artists. He settled in Denver, Colorado in 1930, opened a studio, and turned his attention to creative work. In 1933 the Federal WPA (Works Progress Administration) provided opportunities for people from diverse fields including artists. Martin found employment under this program and completed several major projects during this period. Among works completed during this time was a six-foot sculpture of the sea god, Neptune, housed at the University of Colorado in Boulder; a large relief panel in the Denver municipal court
depicting Colorado's gold mining era; a memorial to the Ute chiefs at Ignacio, Colorado; and smaller pieces at the State Museum in Springfield, Illinois and at the University of Wyoming.

Martin received national attention in 1935 when he installed two large sculptures on the facade of the Boulder High School. Rival citizen committees formed to both remove the pieces and to defend the work. The State Patrol was called to control traffic as people flowed into Boulder to view the controversial sculptures.

From 1935 to 1938 Martin was instructor in sculpture, life drawing, and ceramic design at the University of Denver. In 1939 one of his works was exhibited at the World's Fair in New York City. In 1941 Martin completed two large relief panels commissioned for the elementary and junior high school in Carol, Iowa. While at the University of Illinois, in addition to teaching art and sculpture classes, he produced
many pieces for exhibits and commissions. Today Martin's works are found in
private collections and on public display at various institutions and organizations.

Marvin Martin (1907-1963) was a dedicated teacher who valued the development of creative inspiration and technical skills in his students. During his tenure at the University of Illinois, the sculpture option grew from a series of service courses to a formal degree program offering students the opportunity to develop skills to embark on careers in art and sculpture.
The following is from the same article in the context of Martin's career at the University of Illinois.

........ in 1944 Martin came to Illinois and he began building the sculpture program. Classes were first held in the basement of David Kinley Hall. As enrollment grew, larger studio space was provided in the basement of the Architecture building. Sculpture classes included clay modeling, casting, wood and stone carving. In 1960 the Art Building was dedicated and extensive new studio space at last became available for all the programs in the Art Department. The sculpture program expanded to include new courses in welding, metal casting and ceramics. Martin
developed and promoted a formal sculpture curriculum, and the Bachelor of
Arts in Sculpture was established in 1961. Following an exhibition on Cape
Cod, Martin unexpectedly died from a stroke in July 1963. The approval of
the Master of Arts in Sculpture followed shortly thereafter in 1963.

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