Tuesday, October 14, 2008

David Stone Martin: Early Days

David Stone Martin was born in 1913. He had no formal art training, but his passion for picture making was so intense that as a boy he spent endless hours in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago. There, in high school, at home and through whatever intermittent art classes he could find, Martin devoted all his free time to learning about and practicing his craft. One of his first jobs was helping to execute some of the large murals decorating the buildings of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.


He worked on a W.P.A. mural project during the Great Depression and in 1935 accepted an invitation to join the Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville as a staff artist. During WWII, Martin joined the Office of Strategic Service as a graphic designer and eventually settled into the Office of War Information as an art director. Here he first met and worked with Ben Shahn, whom he assisted on several mural projects, and several others who were important to Martin's development and growth as an artist: Henry Koerner, Bernard Perlin, William Golden and Henry Koeller. The exchange of ideas and the opportunities for diverse projects, including a stint as an artist-correspondent for Life magazine and Abbott Laborotories made this period extremely stimulating for the young artist.


As the war was drawing to a close, Martin joined the Associated American Artist group where he began doing commercial art projects. He illustrated ads for Lucky Strikes, Abbott Laboratories and other clients. A war bonds poster for abbott Labs was his first truly commercial assignment and shortly thereafter, he began his free-lance career.


One early project, a hospital book DSM designed and illustrated for the Federation of Philanthropies, won a medal from the Art Directors Club. It was only the first of many awards that quickly followed. Martin won an Award for Distinctive Merit in both '47 and '48. He had 6 pieces accepted in the 1948 Art Directors Annual alone. The publicity propelled him to the top of the business.


Somehow in the midst of all this activity, DSM found time to teach as well - at the Brooklyn Museum School of art in 1948-49, and at the Workshop School of advertising and editorial Art in New York in 1950, the same year he did this piece for Esquire magazine.


At some point in the late 40's, I'm not sure exactly when, he began his long association with his representative, Lester Rossin Associates. His rep clearly appreciated that they had a trophy in Martin. he produced many promotional pieces for them and his work appeared prominently in all their ads. In the example below, you see the style and subject matter that became synonymous with the name David Stone Martin. His jazz album covers are what he is best remembered for. Tomorrow, we'll take a closer look at some of them!



My David Stone Martin Flickr set.

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:57 PM

    That pink picture. The black door. The black shoes and hair. The thick, textured line about the chair. The detailing on the guitar. It's pure DSM, and I hadn't seen it before. It's more proof that he was able to see things in ways that most of us can not.

    It's fascinating that Martin worked with directly with Ben Shahn, as the influence is so obvious, but at the same time, Shahn's influence is quite obvious in much mid-century illustration. I'd say that perhaps DSM used that influence best.

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  2. One of my favorite artists. Thanks for posting this!

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