Robert Emory Martner (1912-1988) & Elynor Sturm Martner (1912-2002)

Robert and Elynor Martner, native Minnesotans, met at an art institute school in Minneapolis just after 1930, and married a couple years later. At this point, in the heart of the Great Depression, Robert and Elynor faced sober prospects for eking out livings in art. Nevertheless, Robert began a career as part of a two-man, traveling sign-painting business, painting marquee and window signs for garages, taverns, and other small businesses from Illinois to Colorado in 1933, while Elynor was able to engage with a department store where she arranged displays.

Thereafter, for 30 years, Robert was self-employed as a free-lance commercial artist, first in Chicago, where Carolyn and her older brother Glen were born, and later in Minneapolis. His artwork was primarily fashion drawings for department store newspaper advertisements and on clothes bags for a Midwest network of dry cleaning companies.

After WWII, the Martners relocated to Northeast Minneapolis. Bob worked out of a studio downtown for a few years until finances tightened and he moved his work into a tiny room in the family home. Though his work and lettering seems to have been excellent, his marketing abilities were lacking and he continued to struggle to attain enough work. An additional challenge to his success was his suffering of periodic debilitating migraines.

During this period, Elynor, in spite of having now 3 children to raise (Brooks had been born in 1947), sold Avon for a time before pursuing work in elementary level teaching. In spite of carrying only a 2-year teaching degree, she excelled and quickly established herself in the Minneapolis school system, where she was rewarded with a full-time teaching position. Years later, she completed her bachelor's degree in education.

Weary of Minnesota winters and his inability to scratch out a living in commercial art, Robert abandoned both in 1964 when he moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he owned and operated a small health foods store until he retired in 1977. After retiring from teaching and the health foods store, Robert and Elynor created numerous oil paintings, mostly of western landscapes, many of which were inspired by travel in their desert southwest surroundings and to the Laramie, Wyoming area, where Brooks worked as a scientist at the UWyo. It was also during this period that Elynor did a series of beautiful southwest wildflower sketches that we've included here.

Earlier, during the 1950’s, Robert Martner had produced a series of pin-up drawings and paintings for recreation. He made these in his tiny one-room studio at home in Minneapolis without the aid of models. None of these beautiful art pieces was ever published or exhibited, although they all compare very favorably to the work of other popular 20th century pin-up artists, such as Alberto Vargas.

Enjoy the gallery!

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Artist's signature

Robert's Commercial Signature