Jan and Joel Martel...The Express Train

The Martel Brothers 

Between Tradition and Modernism

By the early 1920’s the twin Martel brothers Jan and Joel Martel were fully integrated within the avant-garde of Parisian society, and able to include Pierre Chareau and Robert Mallet Stevens among the many friends and colleagues for whom they executed sculptural works. Inspired in the use of modern, often synthetic materials, the brothers were commissioned by Mallet-Stevens to create a series of dramatic five meter high cast-concrete trees for the 1925 Exposition Internationale, inaugurating a relationship that was embedded two years later when the architect reciprocated by designing for them a house-workshop, the geometric interior of which mirrored the cubist forms favored by the brothers. Operating between the avante-garde and tradition, and with frequent reference to music and dance, the materials selected by the brothers included lakarme, plexiglass, mirrors and zinc - for the fragmented Cubist sculpture, “The Accordeonist” - or cast and polished aluminum, used to such energetic effect for their “Express Train”.

Members of the UAM since its foundation, the brothers continued to collaborate with other participants throughout the 1930s, on projects that included a series of sculptural reliefs for the 1937 Exposition Internationale.

life long collaborators, the brothers died within months of each other in 1966. (Examples of Martel works including train below.)


Express Train a polished aluminum sculpture with red-brown lacquered wood plinth, by Jan & Joel Martel, 1931

signed with the artists mark in the lower right of the locomotive.

At the request of the French national railways system, the Martel brothers were commissioned to create a series of modernist aluminum sculptures for the Colonial Exposition in 1931, including this example “Express Train”, of which only one example is known. Intended to underline the distinction between different railway companies, the sculptures expressed the fortitude of machine power. The Martels were not alone in their appreciation of this symbol of modernity and travel, a motif also reprised by the French inter-war Nouvelle Vision photographers Eli Lotar and Rene Zuber, and graphic artists such as Adolphe Mouron - Cassandre - who himself also commissioned to design promotional posters for the French railways system. With this work, the Martel brothers created a fluent -sculptural form that encapsulates both in materials and stylized form, the modern energy of dynamism.

Christies Auction - Chateau De Gourdon

Express Train

Streamline Modern

Iconic Express Train Locomotive attribution

after a design by Jan and Joel Martel

Express Train is a lost wax cast bronze sculpture that sits on a sculpted marble base plinth. Combining speed and cubistic elements our Express Train is a great value.

Size of Express Train is 33 inches long x 8 inches wide x 9 inches tall.

See additional pics below.

Express Train Attribution

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