John Howard (J. H.) Martin

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John Howard (J. H.) Martin

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Pueblo Caretta c.1890 

- Oil on wood panel
- Panel: 8” h x 10" w
- Frame: 12.5” h x " 14.5” w
- Signed lower right

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About the work

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Martin’s painting depicts a caretta or ox cart used by the Pueblo and other Indian tribes of Arizona and New Mexico. In the late 1800s such carts wore a path between Laguna, New Mexico, and the Enchanted Mesa and Acoma to the south. 

A description of a Pueblo caretta in the 1892 book “Sketch of the Life of Henry P. Cobb” not only gives the painting added life, but also speaks to the accuracy of its rendering:  

The caretta or cart is a clumsy affair, the wheels being hewn from a solid block of wood, put upon a heavy axle, and as a consequence of never being greased, their screeching can be heard half a mile or more. The oxen that draw this heavy vehicle have their yokes fastened to the heavy tongue by strips of rawhide, and are also tightly bound to their horns with the same material instead of bows around the neck.

About the artist… 

J. H. Martin (1853-1919) wandered across the lands of Nevada prospecting and painting, which earned him the title of “The Prospector Painter.” In the last 10 years of his life he was a well-known character around Reno, described by some as old and crotchety.

Newspaper articles from the time of his death in 1919 describe how he eked out a precarious living painting western scenes. His depictions of Death Valley, the Southwest desert, and cattle and range scenes found their way to many Reno homes in the early 1900s. In his prime, he is said to have had an enviable reputation among art critics, some of whom ranked his very best scenes with those of Remington.

Tragically, Martin shot himself to death in July 1919 in his Reno studio. He was reportedly penniless and half starved. Precious few of his works ever surface on the art market, and little is known about the number that survived since his death.     

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