FOR 20 years from 1960, Frank Martin was the cornerstone of the new sculpture. As head of the sculpture department at St Martin's School of Art in London, he brought into being a new approach to the teaching of art and presided over the several changes in the form and the realm of sculpture which were the precursors of what we see today.
In his student days in the 1930s, Martin had been assistant to the sculptor William McMillan. He had a big, well-developed body and he posed for the central figure Titan on the fountain McMillan made for Trafalgar Square. In the Second World War Martin served in the Royal Marines; during the Italian campaign he built a jetty for landing craft under intense enemy fire, for which he was mentioned in despatches.
Born in Portsmouth, he loved the sea and for most of his life lived beside it. In the late Forties he was one of the first in Britain to snorkel and scuba-dive and he initiated life-saving projects to rescue those trapped underwater using diving techniques. With his two sons he saved the lives of several yachtsmen.
After the war, Martin continued to study sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools. He was an impressive sculptor in his own right, working mostly in stone and terracotta. His two life-sized standing terracotta groups of Adam and Eve, built hollow, were not only great technical achievements, they were also full of feeling; sadly they have been destroyed.
When, in 1952, he took over as Head of Sculpture at St Martin's, Martin devoted his energies to building up the department. There were then no more than half a dozen students doing sculpture, more or less as a hobby. When he retired in 1979, the large department, still based in the same rooms, was known and respected worldwide.
Martin created a kind of workshop atmosphere, with no hierarchy whatever. He did this by his policy of inviting his most …