The Art of Fred Martin
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Fall 1982, The Time of Illness
Unless otherwise noted, all paintings are watercolor and gouache, 22 x 30 in.

Images marked
** are described in the catalog for my 2003 Retrospective at the Oakland Museum of California. 
Click the
** to go to the description.




** Poppies, Grass and Scythe
from The Cultural History of the Earth
July 28, 1982
watercolor and linoleum block print on paper
40 x 40 inches

"Poppies, Grass and Scythe" was based on a pastel painting on brown paper of grass streaming in the wind and Jean’s and my shadows running across and through it, a painting I had made when we lived on College Avenue in 1951.  When I started this painting as part of the series "The Cultural History of the Earth" in early June of 1982, I had put in only the the grass and a few poppies.

The original idea for the 1951 painting had come from the liner notes of a recording of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony—that our lives are like grass.  So, for the cultural history of grass I remembered the College Avenue painting of  “our lives are like grass and these are our shadows,” and decided to make a new one, but with the addition of poppies, the symbol of woman (and of Jean) from my "Beulah Land" book and paintings.  I made the painting as "The Cultural History of Grass" for the seminar, but it looked a bit dull and I never used it in the class.  About a month later, I thought to jazz up the painting with a row of impressions from the linoleum block of the Tarot Death Card  (“Our lives are like grass”) that I had made a year or two before. 

A few days after I had put the Death Card images running across the grass and poppies where our shadows had been in the old College Avenue painting, I showed the painting to Jean.  She was horrified and hysterical—“Why did you put those marks there?”  I said there was no special reason, I only wanted to liven up the composition.  She did not much reply.  A month or two later a lump in her breast was diagnosed as breast cancer.  I did not then know, but I am now certain that when she saw my painting of the “cultural history” of grass, she had known and feared the lump for months.

These are a few of the paintings made in the months that followed...


Up from the Depths
late July, 1982



For Jean
August 5, 1982


And the power of love will save you
August 26-28, 1982



Star Light, Star Bright
August 29, 1982

September 1, 1982



And Forever
September 25, 1982

The Promise of Life (and death)
October 1982



I am a diamond
December 16, 1982

The Arch of Life and the Grass of Blood
December 31, 1982




When painting is a diary and the diarist is in a time of crisis,
the diarist makes many, many more pages than at other times.
There were several hundred more of these paintings made in the fall of 1982
But this is enough for now.

Click here for winter, spring and summer 1983 paintings from the continuing
Time of Illness.