|ARTIST BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: ||The family of western sculptor Cornelius Martens emigrated from Ukraine to Canada in 1925. By 1936 the dustbowl drought forced his family to move to Alberta, and by the time they landed in Coaldale, Martens had begun to experiment with painting and pen-and-ink drawing. Poverty forced Martens to quit school and seek employment as a cheesemaker to support his family, but following the creation of CJLH (1958), the first TV broadcaster in southern Alberta, Martens began a new career as a television art director.
Finding time for lessons, Martens began casting in bronze and depicting the western agrarian life of the mid-20th Century, including cowboys with long hair and wearing beads and watches. As Martens wrote, “I was very interested in roping and anything to do with the West since I can remember. I can remember making mud figures of horses and riders while I was looking after farm animals during the summer.” He cited Charlie Russell, George Phippen, Bob Scriver, and Banff’s own Charlie Beil as his inspiration.
While Martens usually worked on smaller pieces, his most famous creation included a full-sized sculpture of Chief Crowfoot for installation inside the Provincial Legislature, with remarkable details including a precise replica of the actual medal the real Crowfoot wore at the signing of Treaty #7.
The Lethbridge Community College commissioned Martens to create two works: “Coalminer” and “Red Crow.” His works endure in many private and public collections, including those of the Lethbridge Tourist and Convention Centre, the Riveredge Foundation (now part of the Glenbow Museum), the University of Lethbridge, and the Government of Alberta. In 1996, the University of Lethbridge awarded Martens an Honourary Doctorate of Laws. He died at the Coaldale Health Centre in 2009 at age 91.|