b. Chicago, 1913–d. New London, CT, 1992
David Stone Martin was a graphic designer best known for his commercial album covers of the postwar era—he produced more than 400 of them, many devoted to jazz music. He was born David Livingstone Martin in Chicago in 1913, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and worked as an assistant to social realist painter Ben Shahn, designing murals during the 1933 World's Fair. His painting, Untitled (Logger), shows an unmistakable affinity with Shahn’s work, in particular the Progressive Era’s admiration for physical labor. Martin emphasized the logger’s strong hands, broad shoulders, and massive torso; a blue cap obscures his eyes. His bulky form dominates the picture frame, leaving scant room for the logs floating on the river behind him.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Martin supervised mural projects of the Federal Artist Project and worked as art director of the Tennessee Valley Authority. During World War II, he served as an artist/correspondent for Life magazine. After returning to the United States, he worked as a freelance commercial artist, illustrating books, posters, billboards, and advertisements for film, television, and theater, including Lincoln Center Repertory Theater productions of 1960s and 70s. His cover portraits for Time magazine included Robert F. Kennedy, Eugene J. McCarthy, Mao Zedong, and George C. Wallace.
Martin entered music illustration through his longtime friendship with producer Norman Granz and pianist Mary Lou Williams. He produced album portraits—typically heavy black-ink drawings—of numerous jazz greats, including Count Basie, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Dizzie Gilespie, Billie Holiday, Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Parker, and Art Tatum. “He was essentially the first to develop an independent, serious image of jazz,” said Martina Schmitz, an art historian and musician who curated an exhibition of his work at Lincoln Center, adding that his work provided “an intimate insight into the music and life of jazz people.”
He died of pneumonia in New London, CT, on March 6, 1992.
Lambert, Bruce. “David Stone Martin, 78, Illustrator or jazz Albums.” [Obituary] New York Times. March 8, 1992.
Martin, David Stone. Pamphlet file 16040 Ryerson Library. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Artist image: Detail of photograph by William P. Gottlieb, 1947. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress. In: "Cover Art Sells Albums," Down Beat 14, no. 8 (Apr. 9, 1947):12. Used with permission from Ed Enright, Editor, Down Beat magazine, 102 North Haven Road, Elmhurst, IL 60126-3370