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beautiful mathematics, 20th century architectural elevations

Dream Machines: The Inventions of R.G. Martelet
January 6 - March 25 , 2006

Futuristic, mid-century renderings of wheeled and floating vehicles and household appliances by one of the cleverest designers at Sears, Roebuck and Company.


Industrial designers get paid to daydream on paper. In the 1960s, the designs for tomorrow were rapidly replacing normal household products in a country dazzled by progress. For Ron Martelet, one of the greatest product designers at Sears, Roebuck and Company, his futuristic designs were created with the potential of being realized.

An early "propellor head", Martelet applied aeronautical technology to many of his larger objects. He envisioned retractable wheels and hitches for power boats that wouldnt need separate trailers. Even his faucets and bathroom shelves were drawn with the streamlined energy of outboard motors and windswept wings.

He thought of himself as a combination artist/engineer/psychologist in the world of commercial art. His drawing style was unique to the design department and to this day he is regarded by the current head of product design at Sears as "the best artist we ever had". Martelets precisionist drawings created excitement for the often mundane appliance or tool through a lyrical line and a gleam of reflected light.

ArchiTech Gallery has acquired the entire collection of R.G. Martelet's dazzling drawings for mid-century modern consumer products. His designs for snowmobiles, jet skis, golf carts and power boats will be featured in a special exhibition and sale beginning Friday, January 6th that will run through Saturday, March 25th, 2006.

Read Alan Artner's Chicago Tribune Review of the Show

Link to R.G. Martelet's Biography Page with more images

Link to the Form of Function: Art of the Machine

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Notes on the Exhibition:
Dream Machines: The Inventions of R.G. Martelet
January 6 - March 25 , 2006

Whenever I looked for design drawings from the Post World War II era and later, it became all too apparent that rendering hit a low point when it came to architecture. Traditional elevations and plans also suffered from a lack of originality as well because the nature of building design itself became safe and boring. Though "Googie" and "Atomic" stylists produced wonderful presentation drawings, they were the exception. Not till the Postmodern era did presentation renderings again become independent works of art.

Because of this dearth of good buildings, I had been charmed by 1960s designs for kitchen faucets and bathroom fixtures bought from the archivist of Sears Roebuck that had been drawn by a gifted employee in the design department. Known to Sears' chief designer as "the best artist we ever had," Ronald G. Martelet's designs stood out for their invention, finesse and pure showmanship.

In early 2000, "The Form of Function: Art of the Machine" opened with some of the Martelet drawings I'd acquired on the back wall. During the run of the show, a very tanned older man came in to see them. "If you like these, you should see what I ended up keeping!" Ron then introduced himself and said he had a trunk full of drawings from his Sears days. Now retired and spending his days skiing and flying ultralight airplanes, he said he'd let me know whenever he decided to part with them.

He called a few years later with plans to ship them to ArchiTech to see what I could do. We arranged a deal and I began laying the groundwork for a solo show of his best pieces. There were several designs for power boats with retractable wheels that eliminated the need for a trailer. None of them were made into prototypes, perhaps because Sears couldn't make additional money selling the trailers as accessories. His jet skis looked like props from James Bond movies. "Dream Machines: The Inventions of R.G. Martelet" opened in January to a good review from the Chicago Tribune whose critic understood that these were not just drawings as still lifes but "inventions" that just happened to be drawn superbly.

The vehicle designs brought out the "guy" in each man who came in to see the exhibition. The Martelets now on their own walls probably remind them of their own cartoonish racecars drawn in the margins of textbooks when they were bored teenagers.

Click on image
to enlarge

Harry Viehman
Design B
Boat/Trailer combination
15’ boat - 40 or 60 H.P. Motor 14” dia. wheel & tire - Lever activated mechanism
Prismacolor on toned paper, 8-23-61
Signed lower left on shaped mount
16 x 30 inches

Harry Viehman
Toy Car
Black ballpoint on tracing paper, 3-9-71
Initialed lower right
16 x 20 inches

Harry Viehman
Coleman Lantern
Prismacolor on paper velum, circa 1960s
28 x 22 inches

Harry Viehman
Riding Lawn Mower
Prismacolor on toned paper, 12-31-86
Signed and dated lower right
16 x 20 inches

rg martelet
Automobile
Prismacolor on toned paper, undated
16 x 20 inches

Harry Viehman
Snowmobile
Prismacolor on toned paper, 6-20-68
Signed and dated lower right
16 x 20 inches

Harry Viehman
Design A Boat/Trailer combination
15’ boat - 40 or 60 H.P. Motor 14” dia. wheel & tire - Lever activated mechanism
Prismacolor on toned paper, 8-23-61
Signed lower left on shaped mount
16 x 30 inches


David Jameson
ArchiTech Gallery
730 North Franklin suite 200
Chicago, IL 60654
312-475-1290
ArchiTechGallery@earthlink.net


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