100 Years
100 Stories

100 Years 100 Stories

Herr Albert Millet

Bharat’s foray into Design Collaborations

Letterhead of Herr Albert Millet, Courtesy: National Archives of India

Herr Albert Millet, master decorator at Bharat Tiles and Marbles in the 1940s
Ultra-modern Bar by Bharat’s skilled decorator-artist, Herr Albert Millet at Bombay's first Ideal Home Exhibition. TOI Archives, 1937.

At various points in Bharat’s long history, the company’s fortunes have intersected with the course of the Second World War. When war was declared, Bharat found its business virtually closed down by the excessive regulation on cement, which had then become an essential war commodity. The Sidhwas venturing into new businesses like tents for the army, metal printing, asbestos, industrial plastics and abrasives too were a result of this global event. But, a few years before Britain dragged its colonies to war, there came Herr Abert Millet of Berlin, a Jewish master craftsman who escaped Nazi persecution to land on the more tolerant shores of Bombay. Berlin’s loss was Bharat’s gain. Herr Millet joined Bharat as a Designer and went on to lend his artistic vision to many iconic Bombay structures.

Albert Millet

Creative expression came easily to Albert Millet who was born in 1910 to artists Samuel Millet and Isle Rosenfeld. Growing up in Berlin, a hub of European art and culture, he received his training in interior design at the Berlin Academy of Art and worked as a painter and designer for many companies. However, the increasing persecution of Jews in Germany by an ascendant Adolf Hitler had made life difficult for talented young Albert. The inexorable hand of destiny would soon be pulling him, across oceans, towards Bombay.

In a difficult time and place, fate had a different role for Mr. Millet. A tiling company in Bombay, Bharat Tiles and Marble Limited, was shifting focus from products to designing spaces. The young company had made its mark and won loyalists for its long lasting and fine-looking tiles, but the heady glamour of the 1930s demanded a more sophisticated approach to design. Producing beautiful tiles was not enough, there was a growing demand for Bharat’s marble in-situ work and expertise in cement applications and Bharat needed a person of high calibre to spearhead this shift. The Sidhwas came in contact with a Mr J. Blum who approached the Jewish Society and they, in turn, reached out to Mr. Millet's father, who suggested Albert as a qualified candidate. Impressing the Sidhwas with his designs, he was eventually hired for a three-year contract with Bharat and was put in charge of executing works with style and finesse.

On a crisp January morning in 1937, Albert Millet arrived on the "M. V. Victoria '' and joined the services of Bharat as a consulting artist and interior decorator. Dotted throughout the Bombay landscape, are his unique works of art, created by Bharat using Colourex and and exquisitely beautiful coloured marble as embellishments for contemporary Art Deco structures.

One of Millet’s most noteworthy projects was the headquarters of the Western India House on Pherozeshah Mehta Road in Bombay. The contract for the entire marble and tiling scheme for the building was executed by Bharat Tiles and Marble. Back in the day, the facade of this building stood out in contrast to those flanking it. Here, Herr Millet oversaw the application of Colourex, a coloured cement plaster used to recreate the the look of Malad-stone on the elevation's face. This exterior, he contrasted with mosaic tiles in different colours in the interior and for the showrooms on the ground floor. For columns and staircases, a striking scheme in beautiful white and coloured marble was designed.

Albert Millet wins H E The Governor's Prize at the Art Society Exhibition, TOI Archives 1940; Ultra-modern Bar by Bharat’s skilled decorator-artist, Herr Albert Millet at Bombay's first Ideal Home Exhibition. TOI Archives, 1937.

The design of the "Ultra-modern bar" by Bharat Tiles and Marble Co. was the focal point of The Ideal Home Exhibition in 1937, which signalled a turning point in the nation's modern home decor. Herr Albert Millet made a design featuring a distinctive mural in coloured cement and marble relieved with aluminium strips.

As mentioned in a Times of India issue dedicated to The Ideal Home Exhibition - “One of the most beautiful exhibits is the Ultra-Modern Bar, by Bharat Tiles and Marble Co. It pays a glorious tribute to Bharat’s skilled decorator-artist, Herr Albert Millet of Berlin - and also to their beautiful marble and “Colourex” Cement without which the designer’s dream could not have materialized”

Intelligent, cultured and known for his exceptional designs, Herr Albert Millet won several prizes for his work. For 3 years in a row from 1938, he was awarded H. E. The Governor of Bombay’s prize at the Bombay Art Society Exhibition at the Town Hall.

Bharat was committed to excellence of global standards and Herr Millet was a man of immense talent and industry, elevating Bharat’s design capabilities with his knowledge and creativity. His role in implementing some of the finest designs in Art Deco in Mumbai attest to this.