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ARTIST

KARL MARTENS

Karl Mårtens was born in San Francisco in 1956, and grew up in Drottningholm in the outskirts of Stockholm in Sweden. Since childhood Mårtens has moved between North America and Europe: from Sweden to Canada, back to San Francisco and, most recently, returning to Stockholm where he now resides.


Mårtens is one of the finest wildlife artists of his generation. The main preoccupation of Mårtens’ work is the study of the natural world, and birds in particular, a fascination which stems from his childhood. He has been drawing and painting birds from earliest memory, moving from precise, detailed studies to the more fluid and free style as practiced today. Over the years he has accumulated extensive knowledge of birds, and he paints from memory. Painted exclusively with watercolour, his exquisitely rendered studies of birds, in particular birds of prey, waterfowl and wildfowl, capture something of the vital essence and character of their subjects.


Mårtens’ process is a challenge to the need for artistic control, promoting intuition and experiment, and his exquisitely rendered studies capture something of the vital essence and character of their subjects. He takes influence from both Eastern and Western philosophies, especially his study of Zen Buddhist meditation and Japanese archery. Using Japanese and Chinese paintbrushes, watercolour, charcoal and handmade paper, Mårtens applies the watercolour onto handmade paper positioned on the floor of his studio from above. Inspired by the unpredictable reactions between his materials, this technique results in a fluid and free style that encapsulates the movement of the birds.


Gladwell & Patterson’s long association with Mårtens began when the gallery first set eyes upon his mesmerizing watercolors of birds of prey. Mårtens’ first solo exhibition in London was held in 2009 at our former Mayfair gallery W. H. Patterson and his work continues to delight and inspire our international clientele.

I look at a bird and a specific expression or posture, which particularly expresses the personality of the bird, sticks in my mind. Then I paint ...

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