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Henri Étienne Martin, known as Étienne-Martin (1913-1995) is a non-figurative French sculptor.

Born on February 4, 1913 in Loriol in the Drôme, Étienne Martin studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts (1929-1933) in Lyon, where he met Jean Bertholle in 1929, and Marcel Michaud in 1930.

He came to Paris in 1934, working in Charles Malfray's studio at the Académie Ranson where he made friends with the painters such as Roger Bissière, Jean Le Moal, Alfred Manessier, Zelman, Véra Pagava, and the sculptor François Stahly. With them, he became part of the group "Témoignage", led in Lyon by Marcel Michaud from 1936, which exhibited in Paris in 1938 and 1939. He discovered the writings of the philosopher René Guénon, whose works aroused his interest in esotericism and spirituality.

He moved to Paris in 1938, rue du Pot-de-Fer, where he worked until the end of his life. That same year, he met ceramic artist Annie Talboutier with whom he had three children.

Mobilized, Étienne Martin was taken prisoner in Germany (working on a farm) and released in 1941. He stayed in Boulogne in 1942 with Stahly and Zelman in the community led by the architect Bernard Zehrfuss then in 1943-1944 in Dieulefit (Drôme) where he binds with the writer Henri-Pierre Roché (time of the realization with four hands of the large sculpture of 8m in the wall of a sandpit). It is a mystical period of sharing in the creation and of collective life.

He then settled in Mortagne-au-Perche in Normandy. Back in Paris in 1947, he lives with Roché and meets Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp. He collaborated on certain projects carried out as part of the Reconstruction, in particular sacred art, and began to exhibit regularly at "the Salon de la jeune sculpture".

Supported by the critic Michel Tapié, he participates in group exhibitions in Parisian galleries. He also met Georges Gurdjieff, a figure of esoteric thought, and followed his teaching for 6 years (practicing spiritual exercises, with reference to the East and Taoism).

Étienne Martin began "des Demeures (the Mansions)" series in 1954 (in memory of his birthplace which had such a lasting impact on him, a house sold in 1945 upon the death of his father), a series which made him internationally famous, and in 1966 received the grand prize for sculpture at the 33rd Venice Biennale.

He was a professor teaching monumental sculpture from 1968 to 1983 at the National School of Fine Arts (École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts) in Paris. He was elected in 1971 to the Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1984 an exhibition of all of "des Demeures (the Maision)" series was presented at the Center Pompidou in Paris. An exhibition was dedicated to him in 1996 at the Coubertin Foundation (Saint-Rémy lès Chevreuses, Yvelines). Once again, in 2010, an exhibition was presented at the Center Pompidou, paying homage to the artist through the presentation of a set of fifteen sculptures, drawings, personal notebooks, and photographs from his studio.

It was then shown in Vannes at the Musée de la Cohue as part of the "Center Georges Pompidou off-the-wall" program. In 2011, the artist’s first retrospective presented through an exhibition was presented at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon.


22/10/2011 - 23/01/2012
Exposition L'Atelier d'Etienne-Martin,Le musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon (FR)
23/06/2010 - 13/09/2010
Étienne Martin,Centre Pompidou's collection / Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris (FR)


Video ©Garage Productions