Martin Russell Hurtig, artist, professor emeritus in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and adoring husband, father, and grandfather, died peacefully in his home on July 23, 2022. He was 92.
A 60-year resident of Evanston, Martin was a prolific abstract painter, printmaker, and sculptor.
Born to Eve and Saul Hurtig on August 11, 1929, Martin arrived earlier than expected while his family vacationed in South Haven, Mich.
He grew up in Chicago, where his father owned a stationery store on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. With little interest in joining the business, Martin briefly attended Roosevelt University. There he enrolled in a painting class with Richard Koppe, who also taught at the Institute of Design (ID) at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Recognizing Martin’s talent, Koppe encouraged him to transfer to ID and pursue his budding interest in art and design.
At ID, Martin discovered his passion as an artist and art educator. ID faculty member Misch Kohn was particularly influential, teaching Martin the techniques that enabled him to develop his artistic voice.
He received his bachelor of science degree from ID in 1952. In 1955, he studied at Atelier 17 in Paris, and in 1957 received a master’s degree, also from ID in Chicago. In 1962, after teaching at Michigan State University for five years, Martin joined the faculty of the newly founded University of Illinois at Chicago, where he taught for more than 40 years, including a term as chair of the School of Art and Design.
Over his 50 years of art-making, Martin exhibited his works extensively, both nationally and internationally. He received numerous commissions for his sculptural murals and also curated several exhibitions. His work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago, and several other public and private institutions.
In 1953, Martin married his high school sweetheart and kindred lifelong learner Anita Landau, also of Chicago, and they embarked on a 56-year adventure of shared world travel, intellectual curiosity and engagement in the arts. Together they raised their three children to be advocates for social justice, encouraging them toward lives of learning, community involvement, cultural exploration through travel, creative expression and teaching.
A lifelong athlete and avid tennis player at Midtown Tennis Club in Chicago, Martin became known for his post-match ability to beat his adversaries to the coffee and bagel bar for their regular helpings of nourishment, ice packs and conviviality.
Later he became a familiar face at the Levy Senior Center, Evanston, where he rode the exercise bike with steadfast determination. Martin faithfully read the New Yorker and the New York Times, often clipping articles for members of his family and friends. He had a love of classical and jazz music, theater and film.
Martin Hurtig will be remembered as a dedicated artist and educator, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and a generous friend who routinely answered the greeting, “How are you?” with, “Great, now that you’re here!”
Martin was preceded in death by his wife, Dr. Anita Landau Hurtig, and his brothers David and Sheldon (Shelly) Hurtig. He is survived by his three children, Janise Hurtig, Anthony Hurtig (Amy Teschner), and Elliott Hurtig (Robyn); five grandchildren, Jonah Hurtig, Gill Hurtig, Mae Hurtig, Reed Hurtig, and Leo Hurtig; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service was held July 28 at the Evanston Art Center.
So sorry to find out that Martin died. His friend and mine, Alexis Delabre died four days later in Paris…Tragic.
He was a great friend – and a man who always was glad to see you. He will be missed.