Mary Martin

(1907—1969) artist

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British painter and maker of constructions, the wife of Kenneth Martin. She was born in Folkestone, Kent, and studied in London at Goldsmiths College, 1925–9, and the Royal College of Art, 1929–32. Early in her career she painted landscapes and still-lifes in a style close to the Camden Town Group, but during the 1940s her work, like that of her husband, moved towards abstraction. She made her first purely abstract painting in 1950, her first geometric abstract relief in 1951, and her first free-standing construction in 1956. With her husband she was regarded as one of the leaders of Constructivism in England. Together they took part in ‘This is Tomorrow’ at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1956. The geometric environment they produced for the occasion has, like many other contributions to that event, been overshadowed by the enormous impact of Richard Hamilton's Pop intervention. Martin had numerous major commissions: among them were a screen for Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast (1957), reliefs for the liner SS Oriana (1960), and a wall construction for the University of Stirling (1969). She had decided views on the architectural use of abstract art, writing in 1957 that ‘the work becomes a comprehensible symbol of the building itself, a part of the architecture but not architecture’. She tended to base her work on mathematical sequences and systems of proportion. In 1969 she was joint winner of the first prize at the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition. An Arts Council exhibition was devoted to her and her husband in 1970–71.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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