Agnes Martin,

92, a highly regarded abstract artist whose spare paintings reflected the simple life she sought, died Thursday at the Plaza de Retiro, a retirement community in Taos, N.M.

She had lived a simple life in the artists' haven in northern New Mexico since 1991, even as her art grew in popularity around the world.

She was one of America's most distinguished artists, with an "amazing ability to reduce to essence all that we feel about space and light," said Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in Washington. "She stands for an awful lot in the story of contemporary art over the past 50 years."

Her abstracts have been included in collections at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, all in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London. In 1998, she won the National Endowment for the Arts' National Medal of Art.

James J. Ling,

81, a Dallas tycoon who was a pioneer of the modern-day conglomerate, died Friday of esophageal cancer. He was the L in LTV Corp., a now-defunct business that became Fortune magazine's 14th-largest industrial company with $3.8 billion in revenues.

Mr. Ling's conglomerate-building career at LTV ended in the 1970s after his foray into the steel industry proved catastrophic. When financial problems mounted, he was booted out of the corporation. But he stayed active until recently in business, running a Dallas energy company and other enterprises.

E-Systems Inc., Braniff Airlines, Wilson Sporting Goods, resorts in Acapulco and Steamboat Springs, Colo., and National Car Rental were all once part of LTV - America's first billion-dollar conglomerate.

Sidonie Goossens,

105, a harpist and the last survivor of a musically distinguished family of brothers and sisters, died in her sleep Wednesday at her home near London.

She was principal harpist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1930 until her retirement 50 years later. In 1924, according to Grove Music Online, she became the first harpist to broadcast a harp solo in Britain. In 1936, she was the first harp soloist to appear on television.

At age 91 in 1991, she became the oldest person to perform at the Last Night of the Proms concert, televised by the BBC. Her father and her grandfather, both named Eugene, were principal conductors of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Her sister, Marie, who died in 1991, also was a harpist and held a succession of posts with British orchestras. A brother, Leon, who died in 1988, was a renowned oboe player who commissioned works from composers, including Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Henny Backus,

93, the widow of actor Jim Backus and an actress who debuted as a Broadway showgirl in the 1920s, died Dec. 9 in Los Angeles after a series of strokes.

Mrs. Backus, born Henrietta Kaye, was best known for her role as Cora Dithers in the 1968 television sitcom Blondie.

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