Martin Hurtig began his professional training at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1952. In 1955, he studied at the Atelier 17 in Paris. In 1957, Hurtig received a Master’s degree, also from the Institute of Design in Chicago. Hurtig has presented his works extensively, with national exhibitions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, Portland Museum, Maine, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii to name a few. He has also exhibited on the international stage, with shows including the Bibliotheque National, Paris, France, Osaka Triennale, Osaka, Japan. He received numerous commissions for his sculptural murals, including from the Waukegan Public Library, Waukegan, IL; the National Republic Bank, Chicago; and a stained glass window and wall mural at the Union Church of Lake Bluff, IL. He also curated a number of exhibitions, including Sight/Insightat the Suburban Fine Arts Center, Highland Park, IL, and Chicago-Paris Abstract Affinities at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago. In the late 60s and early 70s, Hurtig struggled against the dominance of “Imagism” in Chicago, forming with Larry Solomon, a group committed primarily to abstraction called “The Five,” which also included Ted Argeropolis, Larry Booth, and Vera Klement.
In an essay on Hurtig’s one person show Enigmatic Relation at the Columbia College Chicago Art Gallery, art historian Sue Taylor thoughtfully observed: “Poignant and beautiful, Hurtig’s images are like dancers in an existential ballet. They spring from a rigorous and fully formed aesthetic, and draw their power from a profoundly empathic human spirit.”
Corey Postiglione, a Chicago-based artist, writer and Professor Emeritus of Art History and Critical Theory at Columbia College Chicago, wrote: “Hurtig has maintained a certain aesthetic position that runs through his entire oeuvre. In fact, he has adhered to two main concepts over the last 50 years of art making: his unflagging commitment to abstraction, and his need to speak visually in a non-regional voice. Art, for Hurtig, was its own domain, to be appreciated on its own terms, in its own language of the visual. His work from the beginning of his career embraced an art that operated from a more formal or conceptual base.”