Jan and Joel Martel (1896 – 1966) twin brothers and French sculptors

Jan and Joel Martel (1896 – 1966) were twin brothers and French sculptors. They were born in Nantes and active in Paris.

Biography

Cement, glass, steel, mirrors, ceramics, lacquers, and synthetics were all used in their projects. Their first commission was the Vendée memorial monument, which was completed between 1920 and 1922. They had an impact on Cubists and produced both small and large-scale sculptures. They became best known for their 20m (6 ft) reinforced concrete trees in the Paris exposition’s tourism pavilion in 1925. They worked with the architect on various projects while working in the Mallet-Stevens designed studio on rue Mallet-Stevens in Auteuil.

Hermine the 'Otter' created in bronze (1919) designed by Jan and Joël Martel
Hermine the ‘Otter’ created in bronze (1919) designed by Jan and Joël Martel

Their work was distinguished by deformed figures and harmonious forms contained within simple volumes. They created the sculptures L’Accordéoniste, Le Joueur de polo, and L’Ile d’Avalon in plaster, stone, cement, and metal. They also worked in polished zinc and modular modules, including commissions for the Lion de l’Hotel and the Belfort Post Office and pieces such as L’Homme a la scie musicale and Gaston Wiener’s portrait. The 1929 La Trinité marked a shift towards larger-scale works, such as the Chemins de fer pavilion decoration at the 1931 Exposition Coloniale. Their 1930 La Locomotive en marche in polished zinc conveyed Futurist ideas.

Sculpture by Jan and Joël Martel
Sculpture by Jan and Joël Martel

Their Claude Debussy monument was built in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne in 1932. They later designed the Guy de Lubersac monument in Soissons. They created the Christen croix sculpture, the candlesticks in the chapel of the 1935 ocean liner Normandie, and other works for churches such as Paris’ Eglise de Saint-Esprit and Blois’ cathedral. Their work became more abstract around 1937, as evidenced by Le Faucheur, La Danseuse, and Meélusine, created for the dam at Mervent in Vendée. Following WWII, the brothers erected monuments to the war dead in Vendée, Haut- Rhin, Loiret, and Finistere and navigator Alain Gerbault, politician Pierre Laval, and painter Milcendeau.

Scottish pigeon designed by Jan and Joël Martel
Scottish pigeon designed by Jan and Joël Martel

Their sculpture Oiseaux de mer for the church of Saint-Jean-de-Monts was notable, as were their decorations for Metz Cathedral. The Martels and Henri Pacon restored the Lourmarin chateau inhabited by Eileen Gray during WWII.

Exhibitions

They showed their work at the 1921 Salon des Indépendants. For the 1925 Paris’ Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes,’ they designed Mallet-Stevens’s tourism pavilion, the reliefs and plinths for the Concorde gate (Pierre Patout, architect), the interior décor for the bathroom of the Sevres pavilion, and the Cubist reinforced-concrete trees for Mallet- Stevens’s garden. As members of the Union des Artistes Modernes from 1929, they showed at its exhibitions from 1930. They collaborated on several pavilions at the 1937 Paris’ Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne and (with Jean Burkhalter) designed the fountain of the commissariat of tourism there. Work subject of 1977 retrospective, Saint-Jean- de-Monts.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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