Agnes Bernice Martin (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004) was an American abstract painter. Often referred to as a minimalist, Martin considered herself an abstract expressionist. Born to Scottish Presbyterian farmers in Macklin, Saskatchewan, she was one of four children.She moved to the United States in 1931 to help her married sister. She preferred American higher education and became an American citizen in 1940. Martin studied at Western Washington University College of Education, Bellingham, Washington, prior to receiving her B.A. (1942) from Teachers College, Columbia University. After hearing lectures by the Zen Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki at Columbia, she became interested in Asian thought, not as a religious discipline, but as a code of ethics, a practical how-to for getting through life. A few years following graduation, Martin matriculated at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where she also taught art courses before returning to Columbia University to earn her M.A. (1952). She left New York City in 1967 and settled in Taos, New Mexico, where she built an adobe home. She lived alone all her adult life. Despite her isolation and her reputation of being reclusive once she left New York City, many of her paintings bear positive names such as “Happy Holiday” (1999) and “I Love the Whole World” (2000). In an interview in 1989, discussing her life and her painting, Agnes Martin said, "Beauty and perfection are the same. They never occur without happiness."
Martin's work can be found in major public collections in the United States, including the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; The Menil Collection, Houston, TX; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.
Martin became an inspiration to younger artists, from Eva Hesse to Ellen Gallagher. In 1994, the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, part of the University of New Mexico announced that it would renovate its Pueblo-revival building and dedicate one wing to Martin's work. The gallery was designed according to the artist's wishes in order to accommodate Martin's gift of seven large untitled paintings made between 1993 and 1994. Today, the Agnes Martin Gallery attracts visitors from all over the world and has been compared by scholars to the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Matisse Chapel), Corbusier's Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, and the Rothko Chapel in Houston.
Martin was awarded a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998.