Listening to Art

08.05: Agnes Martin, The Rose

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume eight, number five: The Rose by Agnes Martin.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

Agnes Martin was born in Canada in 1912. When she was about 20 she moved to the United States, and she became an American citizen in 1950. She lived mainly in New Mexico, where she died in 2004, but had several periods in New York City, including a decade from 1957 to 1967. It was in the mid-1950s that she changed from representational to abstract work, eventually arriving at a style used in this work, from 1964.

Here is a quote from “What Does One Look At In An Agnes Martin Painting? Nine Musings On the Occasion of Her Ninetieth Birthday” by Richard Tuttle, published in the Autumn 2002 issue of American Art (pp. 92–95):

VI. Painting is inextricable from life. A painting recently unbound from the subject can be free to engage us with issues of great universality. Calm. Repose. Silence. Stability. These are things I come to expect from an Agnes Martin painting.

Fear could also be one of those issues. The artist chooses not to be crushed by life and returns art to the truly social by ending fear with her work. That is a kind of heroism.

To the owner of a Martin painting, living with something that has no tricks can be disconcerting. Martin’s depth of knowledge of the knowable, everyday quality/quantity of things is given with almost naive generosity. Those who know Martin are aware of her love of camping and hiking amid Southwestern vistas, adventure, athletics, cars, and of her great sense of humour. These are the kinds of things she actually paints with, and these give life to her pictures.

This is a painting, oil, red pencil, black pencil and sizing on canvas, 182.7 cm wide by 182.6 cm high.

Now let’s listen to The Rose by Agnes Martin, recorded at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, on 12 July 2020.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was The Rose by Agnes Martin. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Art Gallery of Ontario. “The Rose.” Art Gallery of Ontario.

Chilvers, Ian and John Glaves-Smith, eds. A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, s.v. “Agnes Martin.” 3rd ed.

Tuttle, Richard. “What Does One Look At In An Agnes Martin Painting? Nine Musings On the Occasion of Her Ninetieth Birthday.” American Art 16, no. 3 (Autumn, 2002): 92–95.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Agnes Martin,”