Artist and Visionary Martin Rosenthal was born in 1899 in Woburn, Massachusetts. Little is known of Martin's early years. He finished his military service in 1925. He studied at the Art Students League in New York with John Sloan, Robert Henri and Boardman Robinson, and as George Luks' associate at the Luks School of Painting. He also taught at Luks' summer home.
The Modern Art Exhibition of 1934 was proclaimed by the press: "One of the most comprehensive exhibitions of modern art ever staged outside of a museum." Rosenthal's work was singled out from among exhibited pieces by Chagall, Modigliani, Zorach, and Pissarro. As the review continued, "Featured are Jewish artists whose contributions to modern painting and sculpture are significant. The themes of several paintings, such as Martin Rosenthal's outstanding "Woman with Shawl" deal with picturesque phases of Jewish life and character."
Rosenthal exhibited little from the late 1930's until the early 1960's, although he continued to paint. He spent the greater part of his life near New York City, but traveled and to Madagascar and Spain, then lived in Japan.
It wasn't until sometime in the late 1960's that they appeared ... strange and fantastic creatures crowding his every creation. Rosenthal's "Future People" are wondrously enigmatic. Some appear amiable or naive, others downright fearsome and threatening, while a few seem to know something we don't know. Mingled within these peoplescapes is another curiosity: cartouches, or possibly insignia. They are repeated over the years, throughout much of the body of work, as if they have symbolic significance.
Somber colors of deep blues and magenta with gold leaf mingling throughout are seen in the earliest of the "Future People" works. Rosenthal painted in the dark, moist basement of a small home he shared with his mother and aunt in Queens, New York. In time, the mixed media works began to grow larger in size and brighter in color - as if to mock the artist's very surroundings. There is no hue he did not use, no rhythm he did not capture.Eventually, he constructed some canvases almost too large to be removed from the basement. That didn't matter. You see, Martin Rosenthal never really wanted to sell his "Future People". Instead he surrounded himself with them, as one would display photo enlargements of dear family and friends. These works were never seen until after Martin's death in 1974.
The 1950’s Silkscreens