Fletcher Martin was born in 1904 in Palisade, Colorado, a small western town where his father owned and ran the local newspaper. As Martin grew up his father relocated the family from town to town across the Northwest. Martin's exposure to art in these remote frontier towns consisted of circus posters and newpaper advertisements. His first interaction with professional artist was an itinerant "primitive" painter who set up in the local barbershop. He mixed paints in every color and painted scenes of far off places that enticed Martin to come watch him everyday.
With the start of World War I, the family moved to Seattle where Martin worked for the Western Show Print. They specialized in big, gaudy outdoor posters. Lester Cooke states, "While Fletcher was naturally attracted to the carnival atmosphere of these posters, they were also of great value in teaching him about the disposition of large color areas within a linear graphic framework." (H.L. Cooke,Jr.,Fletcher Martin p.18) After his family moved to yet another small town, Martin left home. He lied about his age and signed up for a four year stint in the navy. While enlisted, "his activity as an artist consisted of decorating certificates commissioned by shipmates to celebrate crossing the Equator" (H.L. Cooke,Jr.,Fletcher Martin p.20). Although he did not paint during this time, the years provided Martin with his ideas and memories for later paintings.
While in the navy, Martin became a light-heavyweight boxer, and even after his discharge, he continued to attend "Friday night fights." Cooke believes that, "Sporting events gave Martin an opportunity to depict men in motion, and the split second when a man devotes all of his mental and physical eforts toward a single goal."
Lullaby is thought to portray the second of the famous fights between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis "the Brown Bomber." Schmeling was the first German to win the Heavyweight Championship in 1930. On June 19, 1936, he fought the undefeated Joe Louis; in an upset of enormous proportions, Schmeling knocked out Louis in 12 rounds. The German, box er had defeated his American foe, and 1936 being the year of the Berlin Olympics, German pride was soaring. Two years later, on June 22, 1938, Louis knocked out Schmeling in the first round. The title Lullaby is truly fitting because Louis literally knocked-out Schmeling--he actually lost consciousness--akin to a baby being put to sleep by a lullaby.
Although Louis defeated Schmeling for the heavyweight championship title in 1936, Martin captured the event in 1942 as a symbol of national pride for Americans. In 1941, the United States entered World War II after the assault on Pearl Harbor. Schmeling had become very unpopular in the United States and elsewhere because of his adherence to Nazi teachings. By portraying Joe Louis defeating Max Schmeling, Fletcher Martin used his victory to symbolize the American victory over Germany.