Chance and Order 4 (Green)

Kenneth Martin (1905 - 1984)

Oil on canvas


Share this:

© Estate of the artist

License this image

Image of Chance and Order 4 (Green)
  • About the work
    Country: Other
    City: other locations abroad

    This painting is part of 'Chance and Order', a 15-year long series that Kenneth Martin began after the death of his wife, Mary Balmford, in 1969. He used chance as a determining influence on the series, by throwing a dice or picking pairs of random slips of paper on which he had written coordinates. These gave the start and finish points of lines which were then plotted onto a graph and formed the basis of the larger paintings such as 'Chance and Order 4 (Green)'. In recognition of this and in reference to the fact that the works told their own working process, Martin called some of his later pictures ‘History Paintings’. 

    'Chance and Order 4 (Green)' invites a slow and close observation. While at first sight it appears mechanical in execution, it becomes apparent that each line was drawn by hand, leaving many of the marks for us to see. The empty, open plane of the work reveals a densely painted surface – giving the work its own individuality. Martin was originally widely known for his sculptural construction, often constructed using prefabricated metal components arranged in spiralling structures which he called ‘screws’. The strict formalism of these structures is offset by the subtle effect and ambiance produced as light filters through them. 

    Kenneth Martin was born in Sheffield, where he studied and worked as a designer before going to the Royal College of Art in 1929. His early abstract paintings date from the late 1940s, and in 1951, he began making kinetic sculptures, in preparation for which he studied mathematics and science. Martin taught at Goldsmiths College of Art for over 20 years, where he was considered an influential figure for a younger generation of artists involved in abstract construction. In 1985, an exhibition of the 'Chance and Order' series was held at the Serpentine Gallery. In 1971 he was awarded an OBE and in 1976 received an Honorary Doctorate at the Royal College of Art. A retrospective of his work was held at the Tate Gallery in 1975. 
  • About the artist
    Kenneth Martin, a leading post-war artist, was born in Sheffield where he studied and worked before attending the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1929. In 1930 he married Mary Martin (1907-1969) also a leading abstract artist. His first solo show was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1943 and he made his first kinetic sculptures in 1951. Martin taught at Goldsmiths’ College of Art from 1946 to 1967. In 1971 he was awarded an OBE and in 1976, an Honorary Doctorate at the RCA. A retrospective was held at the Tate in 1975. In 1985 a survey show of Martin’s drawings and paintings was held at the Serpentine Gallery, Londo while in 2007, an exhibition of Kenneth and Mary Martin’s work was held at the Camden Arts Centre in London.
  • Explore
    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Chance and Order 4 (Green)
    Oil on canvas
    height: 122.00 cm, width: 122.00 cm
    Purchased from Sotheby's, 17 November 2004
    verso, upper right: Kenneth Martin 70
    Waddington Galleries, London, where purchased 1970 by John Weeks; Sotheby's, London, 17 November 2004.
    GAC number