Martin, Mary (1907–1969)

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Martin, Mary (1907–1969)

British painter and sculptor . Born Mary Balmford in 1907, in Kent, England; died in 1969; educated at the Goldsmiths School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London; married Kenneth Martin (an artist), in 1930; two children.

Mary Martin received artistic training in London at the Goldsmiths School of Art and the Royal College of Art, where she specialized in painting. In 1930, she married fellow artist Kenneth Martin; their son, Paul Martin, would also become a professional artist. Abandoning representational art in the late 1940s, Martin started painting geometrical shapes, simply arranged, and along with her husband and artists Anthony Hill and Victor Pasmore created what became known as the post-war Constructivist movement. A growing interest in abstraction led her to relief sculpting, with which she would be associated for the remainder of her career. Her first construction, Columbarium, appeared in 1951. Although influenced by Pasmore and Ben Nicholson and American sculptor Charles Biederman, Martin's art, called by one critic an "orderly presentation of repeated modular designs," was unlike anything else being produced at the time. Often working with bronze, her favorite material, she used simple shapes, varying color, mirrored surfaces, and folded forms to create illusion and complexity in her work.

Mary Martin began collaborating with architects in 1956, and eventually received commissions on numerous architectural structures, including fountains and large wall constructions; by the early 1960s, several of her designs had been published. She spent her last years teaching art, and died in 1969. A retrospective of her work was mounted by the Tate Gallery in London in 1984.


Harrap's Illustrated Dictionary of Art and Artists. Harrap's Reference, 1990.

Heller, Nancy G. Women Artists: An Illustrated History. New York and London: Abbeville Press, 1987.

Kari Bethel , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri

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