Maria Martin (1796–1863) was an evangelical Lutheran from Charleston, South Carolina, who became an accomplished painter within months of meeting John James Audubon. Martin met Audubon through her brother-in-law, Reverend John Bachman, who befriended Audubon while passing through Charleston on route to Florida where he expected to find new avian species. Martin was an amateur artist, but by the time Audubon left, she had familiarized herself with his style of drawing. Six months after their initial meeting, her background botanicals were deemed good enough to embellish Audubon's exquisite bird paintings.
Martin's botanicals and insects appeared in volumes two and four of The Birds of America (1830–1838). She painted snakes for John Edwards Holbrook's North American Herpetology (1842) and assisted in drafting the descriptive taxonomies prepared by John Bachman – who later became her husband in 1848 following the death of her older sister – for The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1846–1854). Until now, her contributions have been unknown to all but the most astute students of natural history and art history and a close circle of family and friends.
Maria Martin's World is a heavily illustrated volume examining how Maria Martin learned to paint aesthetically beautiful botanicals with exacting accuracy. Drawing on deep research into archival documents and family-held artifacts, Debra Lindsay brings Maria Martin out from behind the curtain of obscurity and disinformation that has previously shrouded her and places her centrally in her own time and milieu. In the telling of Maria Martin's story, Lindsay also uncovers many nuances of the behavior and actions of the two prominent men in her life that readers interested in Audubon and Bachman will find noteworthy.
Martin was a gifted artist recognized for having contributed beautiful paintings to a natural history. But beyond the natural world this is a biography of an evangelical Lutheran steeped in the faith of her German ancestors and raised to respect the patriarchal norms of her time. Maria Martin pursued her scientific and artistic interests only when they did not conflict with her religious and familial responsibilities.
Debra J. Lindsay is a professor of history and chair of the history and politics department at the University of New Brunswick, Saint John, Canada. She is the author of Science in the Subarctic: Trappers, Traders, and the Smithsonian Institution.
" [...] the Martin who emerges in Maria Martin's World: Art and Science, Faith and Family in Audubon's America is a dutiful, pious, quiet, and humble help-meet, someone who lived to serve others – always her family and, for more than a decade, Audubon. She was also an artist, first as a self-taught background painter for some of Audubon's enormous avian images, and eventually, as Lindsay convincingly argues, a scientific illustrator who deserves recognition in her own right. Martin certainly gets that treatment in this book."
– Journal of Southern History
"Meticulously researched, extensively documented, and lavishly illustrated, this well-written volume examines the life, career, and contributions of Maria Martin (1796–1863) to the development of American natural history. A watercolor artist and scientific illustrator, Martin contributed to John James Audubon's Birds of America (1827–38), John Edwards Holbrook's North American Herpetology (1842), and The Quadrupeds of North America (1851–54), the last co-written by Audubon and John Bachman (the latter Martin's brother-in-law, then husband). In addition to Martin, Lindsay examines the more than three-decade relationship between the Audubon and Bachman families and the collaborative nature of Audubon's work. Martin found time for her work in natural history and painting over more than three decades, despite her manifold domestic obligations in the Bachman household as a principal caregiver for her nieces and nephews, the children of Bachman and his late first wife. Lindsay's description of the medical issues the Bachman family confronted, the therapies pursued and rejected, serves as an excellent overview of medicine of the era. The volume also treats John Bachman's scientific aspirations and activities as a naturalist and his role as a Lutheran minister over five decades. The notes reveal the author's familiarity with the extensive primary and secondary sources. Recommended."
"Maria Martin was a talented nineteenth-century artist whose story was largely unknown except to the most astute students of natural history and art history. Now, thanks to author Debra J. Lindsay a history professor at the University of New Brunswick, Martin's role in the celebrated art of John James Audubon and other nature artists will come out from behind the curtain of obscurity. [...] It's great to see Martin finally getting the credit she deserves."
"A copy of Maria Martin's World arrived a couple of days ago. It is a truly gorgeous production of which you can be immensely proud. Thank you for asking me to review the manuscript and for the copy of this visual treasure!"
– Lester D. Stephens, author of Science, Race, and Religion in the American South: John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815–1895
"An engaging work that brings Maria Martin to the attention of historians of women, the family, and American science. In addition, John James Audubon's story and recent publications of Audubon visuals will make Debra Lindsay's book attractive to general readers."
– Ann B. Shteir, author of Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science: Flora's Daughters and Botany in England, 1760 to 1860
"Maria Martin's World is a compelling story and helps fill a need for a full-scale biography of Martin, whose illustrations are integral to one of the greatest works of natural history ever produced."
– Christoph Irmscher, author of Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science
"By design, this is a physically beautiful book, with artistic plates expertly rendered by the University of Alabama Press on heavy paper, allowing Martin's talent and work to be on full display. Scholars of the under-documented and often under-appreciated role of women in the antebellum South, of women artists, and of Lutheran life and piety will all find in this work much to admire."
– Lutheran Quarterly
"Maria Martin Bachman may well have been the most influential woman on the American nineteenth-century natural history horizon."
– Charleston County Public Library website