Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lucyl Martel @ Musée régionale de Vaudreuil-Soulanges

Self-Portrait, Lucyl Martel, 1946

Until September 10, our regional museum presents an exhibition of 33 portraits and still-lifes by Vaudreuil resident Lucyl Martel (1922-2015). The show concentrates on the period of 1940-1960.

Self-Portrait, Lucyl Martel, 1946

Martel was a contemporary of the Beaver Hall Group, and studied for several years at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. Her work shows a strong affinity for that of Matisse and the Fauves. The exhibition is sub-titled Une jeune artiste témoin de son temps, which translates to A young artist witness to her time.

Madeleine Martel, (sister of the artist), Lucyl Martel, 1946

Martel's portraits use a strong outline to flatten the spaces. There is minimal modelling of form. She uses pattern effectively and prefers bold, simplified shapes and interesting negative spaces. Her subjects are drawn from her circle of family and friends.

Self-Portrait, Lucyl Martel, 1954

Marcelle Tessier, 1949

Martel's parents owned a cottage on Vaudreuil Bay, where the family spent the summer months. While there, Martel came to know Félix Leclerc and Guy Maufette, and she became involved in making costumes and sets for their theatrical productions.

Nature morte au poisson rouge, Lucyl Martel, 1958

She studied with Alfred Pellan, whose influence is strong in her work. As an instructor at the École des Beaux-Arts, Pellan organized the controversial 1945 exhibition of student work which challenged the academicism of its director. Works with nudity were modified by applying soap and gouache paint to the offensive bits so that they might be included in the show. This issue was so controversial that it led to the resignation of the school's director, Charles Maillard.

Atelier, Lucyl Martel, 1945
exhibited at the academy's show in 1945 with soap and gouache concealing the nudity

Martel exhibited her work actively, sometimes using the ambiguous signature Luc Martel, doubtlessly in an attempt to obscure her identity as a woman. She won prizes for her work and was shown in local galleries. After her student days, Martel was employed making architectural maquettes and then in the sets and props department of Radio-Canada.

Le Filet, Lucyl Martel. 1952
prizewinner at the Musée-des-Beaux-Arts show, 1952

The strong influence of the Catholic church delayed the participation of women in Quebec's public society at this time. Quebec women won the right to vote only in 1940. Lucyl Martel chose the life of a single career woman, living with her unmarried sister, until Madeleine's death in 2002. The sisters travelled frequently to Europe and New York to take in contemporary art and fashion.

A video photo-montage of Martel with her family and contemporaries is included in the current exhibition. Location, hours and times for the Musée Régionale de Vaudreuil-Soulanges are listed on their website.

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