The Art of Fred Martin
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1986-91, The Time of Mourning
Venetians, Romans and others, 1986.


Click here for 1987-89, Keeping and Giving
Click here for 1990, Old Tombs and Others
Click here for 1991, Ashes



On the last day of December 1985, I decided to return to my old images of Venice, the symbol for me of sensuality and the aging of time... it was Rome had been eternity since my first application to travel back in the early 1950's.  I would begin with Venice in that ending of 1985 because it seemed old Venice would best represent the state of my dying senses in those years of mourning after my wife's death in November of 1983.  And, because I was--as I had been in the mid 1970's after my first ten years as Director of the College of SFAI--in the midst of a life of chaos and change, I went back to the system of "pre-established harmony" I had invented in 1974-5.

So the method for the spring of 1986 was to make a group of random watercolor sketches, make a colored ground to put them on, and make a grid for the "pre-established harmony" to put them in.  And because the etchings of Canaletto were an intrinsic part of my Venetian imagery, to use fragmentary photocopies of some of them in some of the paintings.  Same for Piranesi for Rome.

All paintings are watercolor on paper, 39 x 24 inches
Images marked
** are described in the catalog for my 2003 Retrospective at the Oakland Museum of California. 
Click the
** to go to the description.

Click here for directory to all 1980's paintings.

Click here for directory to all paintings




Scroll down for the paintings, click the image for a larger view.


The Venetians...


It was in those years of childhood
December 31, 1985

About “It was in those years…” When I was a child in Alameda, our living room had pictures of Venice in the sunset and an Italian garden with a fountain.  My room had a Spanish galleon with a great red cross on the sail, a Viking ship with a dragon prow, and a clipper ship all blue water and golden clouds.  I was a “ships” kid, I suppose because my parents had given me Gordon Grant’s Book of Old Ships to look at and draw from when I was in bed for three months with rheumatic fever.  The kid across the street was a “trains” kid (his dad worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad).  The kid across the street was older than me, and we argued as to whether ships or trains were best.  He yelled louder and I cried.  I had those pictures of Italy and of the ships all the time until I became a student at Berkeley and was told such things were “not art.”  I made this painting to remember those lost pictures forever.


And then when evening comes in Venice
January 5, 1986

About  “And then when evening comes…”  It was the Venetian imagery as I had built it from the framed calendar pictures in my parents’ living room, from my Landscape Annual, Italy, 1823, and my book of facsimiles of Canaletto etchings—both from the early days of my marriage to Jean—and from imagining Rome as the eternal city of Reason and Venice as the city of the senses in the passing of time…

And now all that to try to save the senses and the pleasure of my two trips to Venice with Jean…

And now it is evening, the light is falling
and I knew that all that I loved would pass.


My Studio Notes were filled in those months of the turning of 1985 into 1986 with essays—call them that, they were the frenzy of feeling driving a writing of the stories (call them that) of what my paintings were showing to me…

 January 20, 1986

“The Venice of columns by the sea, their bases in circular ponds, their golden shafts of stone tall in the afternoon sun, their capitals surmounted by globes of crystal, of opal, of milky, shining stone.  That they were all images of a single dream, and that dream a foundation stone of our lives, I did not know.  But that the column was my body, I knew.

                It was my Venice of long shadows cast from columns by the sea, long shadows stretched across the empty squares of afternoons long gone in places forgotten a century before.

                It was the Venice of the center of soul, the Venice of my deep passion.

                The Venice of the grid that shaped the sky, the old grid that was the core of the world and the shape of sight.

                But the grid was locked.  The world passed through it; it did not radiate the world. The Venice of the old grid of the old time, the old time of late afternoon that never ends in quiet lagoons by the sea.

                I saw the sails of the Venice of long ago.  I painted their lights and shadows, the sun and sea and sky caught in their nets.

                It was the Venice of Canaletto and of Guardi. When I was a young man, it was the Venice of a city of my soul.

                And we waited for the resurrection by the tomb.

                It came from the center, of the center it would always whisper, and what it would say would be the radiance of the sun and of blood: that life is sweet, and real and true.

                The signs of that Venice and of that life of which it was the sign, were the core as sun, as radiance, as woman, shining out upon the columns by the sea, illumining them, radiating them with warmth, sweetness, eternity.



We lived in an old house
January 18, 1986



The Venice of the islands
January 20, 1986

Venice' last lesson
January 21, 1986

Looking now through my 1986 notes for this painting,  I found:

Venice’ Last Lesson:
The Rainbow Flower is the Blossoming
Of all the senses in Unity,
In the Blossoming of the Rainbow flower
We leave time for Eternity.

 The “Rainbow Flower” is the rainbow ring lower right.  There is a red spot at its center; and I wrote what the red is:

Oh, the red of a deep passion.



Rainbow sunset--a Venetian Farewell
February 21. 1986


Click here for 1986, The Romans and Others...

Click here for 1987-89
Click here for 1990
Click here for 1991