John Stockton de Martelly was a lithographer, etcher, painter, illustrator, teacher and writer. He was born in Philadelphia and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; and in Florence, Italy, and at the Royal College of Art in London. In the 1930s and 1940s, he taught printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute to the same students who studied painting with Thomas Hart Benton. De Martelly became a close friend of Benton, and was influenced by his Regionalist style. When Benton was no longer at the Art Institute, the Board of Governors offered de Martelly Benton's job as head of the Painting Department, to which he declined.
De Martelly's lithographs, sold through the Associated American Artists Galleries in New York in the 1930s and 1940s, captured the essence of the rural American landscape. Eventually, de Martelly took a position as the artist-in-residence at Michigan State Univeristy in East Lansing. By the late 1940s he abandoned Regionalism for Abstract Expressionism, and closely studied Honore Daumier.
His drawings, paintings, and prints are now in the collections of many museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Kresge Art Museum in East Lansing, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.