Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin


Artist Details

Birth Place
Macklin, Canada
Death Place
Taos, New Mexico
Phonetic Spelling
AG-nehs MAHR-tehn
Drawings and prints; Painting
Abstraction; Minimalism
Places of Residence
New York; Cuba; New Mexico
Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, 1941–54 intermittently, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1946–48, Western Washington College of Education, Bellingham, Washington, 1934–37
Retrospective Exhibitions

Agnes Martin, at Tate Modern, London, 2015, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2016, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2016–2017Agnes Martin, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1992–93; Agnes Martin: Paintings & Drawings 1974-1990, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1991; Agnes Martin, Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1973

NMWA Exhibitions

Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today, 2015–2016
Inside the Visible, 1996
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1990–91

About the Artist

Agnes Martin’s paintings balance rigid, geometric grids with subtle washes of color. Their formal severity seems to belie their intended spiritual quality. 

Martin was born in Macklin, Saskatchewan, Canada, and grew up in Vancouver. In the United States in the 1930s and 1940s,  she studied art and taught on both coasts. She became an American citizen in 1950.

Splitting her time between New Mexico and New York, where her neighbors included the pop artists Robert Indiana and James Rosenquist, Martin exhibited at Betty Parsons Gallery beginning with her first solo show in 1958. Martin's early style was realistic and then shifted to Surrealism.  She eventually developed her signature abstract compositions dominated by measured grids.

The rational grid system and led critics to group her with Minimalist painters Sol LeWitt and Frank Stella. She preferred the label Abstract Expressionist because she imbued her paintings with personal spiritual content. This insistence on content was contrary to the hard-edged, pure formalism 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. 

National Museum of Women in the Arts