Florence MARTIN

The Australian sisters Florence Beresford Martin (b Ballarat, Victoria, 28 August 1908 – d Sydney, 20 December 1984) and Emily Kathleen Martin (b 4 September 1903 – d ?) collaborated on art and theatre design projects. In 1935 Florence and Kathleen began exhibiting together. They first collaborated on theatre design in Melbourne—The lower depths (1936), Murder in the cathedral (1937) and The cherry orchard (1938).

In 1940, they entered de Basil’s competition to design costumes for an Australian themed ballet during the Ballets Russes tour. The first prize went to artist Donald Friend, but their entry was highly commended and de Basil commissioned them to design costumes for La Lutte éternelle (1940).

Kathleen and Florence then designed for a production of Midsummer night’s dream (1941), and for the Borovansky Company’s Fantasy (1941), performed at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre. In 1942 they moved to New York, where Kathleen worked for leading theatrical costumier Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes, and Florence returned to studying art and design.

Florence spent 1945 working for the Teatro Municipal Ballet Company in Rio de Janeiro, designing costumes for The red poppy and Papoula Vermelha, and the set and costumes for Luta eternal. She continued to work in Rio de Janeiro until 1947, focusing on theatrical design, including Judgement of Jupiter, Malediction, Nocturne and Burleska. She then became a designer for the Foxhole Ballet and Grant Mouradoff’s ballet company, Circus.

The sisters moved to London in 1952, where Florence gave up theatre design to concentrate on painting, and returned to Australia in 1972.

Unknown photographer
Kathleen and Florence Martin in The Philadelphia Inquirer 1945 National Gallery of Australia Research Library, Canberra, papers of Kathleen and Florence Martin

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