Alfredo Ramos Martinez

I just love the Mexican painters so much I thought it was about time I did another one.  I went to an exhibition in Budapest once, opened by the Mexican Ambassador and so this artists’ work and was overwhelmed by its beauty, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Alfredo Ramos Martinez was born on November 12, 1871, in Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo Leon, in Mexico. His father, Jacobo Ramos, a middle-class storekeeper, and his mother, Luisa Martinez de Ramos were strongly supportive of young Alfredo’s artistic endeavors and at the impressionable age of only nine years old, he sent a portrait he had painted of the governor of Nuevo Leon to a competition in San Antonio, Texas and was awarded first prize. Ramos Martinez spent eight years at the prestigious Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, an experience that left him resentful as he believed the system devalued any sense of individuality in an artist.

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Los Novios (The Sweethearts)

Fed up with the monotony of drawing from plaster casts, he often wandered away from the academy to paint scenes from ordinary life. His work caught the attention of American Phoebe Hearst, who arranged to financially support his studies abroad. In 1897, he arrived in Paris and continued his studies in the streets of the city embracing the style of the Post-Impressionists. It was here in Europe that Ramos Martinez began to paint on newsprint. As he explained later in an interview, while visiting Brittany in preparation for his Salon exhibition, he ran out of sketch paper. He asked his landlord if he had access to any good paper. When the landlord returned, he offered Ramos Martinez a stack of newspapers, which the artist reluctantly accepted.

El Dia del Mercado

Ramos Martinez returned to Mexico in 1910 and three years later he was appointed the Director of the National Academy. Although he protested at first, “no, not I, I am the enemy of all academies,” he later accepted the offer when he realized he had strong support from the students. He opened the first of his Escuelas de Pintura al Aire Libre (Open Air Schools of Painting) with an enrollment of ten boys, including a rebellious youth named David Alfaro Siqueiros, soon to become one of the most important Mexican muralists. Taking its cue from the Impressionist concept of painting in the outdoors, this revolutionary program initiated changes in both the theoretical and practical approaches to painting in Mexico bringing arts education within the reach of people of all walks of life. Modernist painter Rufino Tamayo, who studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes from 1917 through 1921, credited Ramos Martinez for directing him “toward Impressionism.” Ramos Martinez married Maria de Sodi Romero in 1928 and a year later their daughter, Maria, was born with a crippling bone disease. Greatly grieved by her suffering, Ramos Martinez and his family left Mexico in 1930 seeking medical attention for her in the United States. They settled in Los Angeles where her condition was successfully treated.

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Woman with Flowers

These circumstances would catapult Ramos Martinez’s art in a new direction. The works produced in California at this time are abruptly modern, yet they focus on prevailing themes of the Mexican renaissance. He turns to the subjects he adored: the humble yet monumental Indian, the dramatic landscapes of Mexico and religious themes that reveal the fervent spirituality shared by his people. He explores the parameters of volume and space in his enormous oil on canvas portraits and his lyrical language of line and color are revealed in his elegant gouaches. The tender embrace of a mother and child, a grouping of vendedoras masterfully balancing baskets of abundant, colorful fruit on their heads, or a depiction of a processional of indigenous women dressed in warm tones of yellows and golds paying homage to the pre-Colombian deity, Quetzalcoatl, are beautifully rendered and even further dramatized by the texture of his chosen medium of newsprint. Ramos Martinez was commissioned to paint numerous murals throughout the United States and Mexico including, the celebrity homes of Jo Swerling, Edith Head and Beulah Bondi, the Chapman Park Hotel, Scripps College in Claremont California and the Normal School for Teachers in Mexico City. His work was exhibited throughout California including the Los Angeles County Museum, the Assistance League Gallery in Hollywood, the Faulkner Gallery in Santa Barbara, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. In 1945, he had a one man show at the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries and the following year at Lillenfeld Gallery in New York City. After his death in 1946, his works were highlighted in several memorial retrospectives including Dalzell-Hatfield Galleries in 1951-1952, Los Angeles City College in 1953, at Scripps College in 1956 and in 1975 the Dalzell-Hatfield Galleries featured “Alfredo Ramos Martinez: A Treasure Trove Exhibition.” In 1992, Louis Stern Galleries presented a prominent retrospective exhibition of his work and continues to represent the estate. Although considered by many to be the founding father of Modern Mexican Art, Ramos Martinez’s astounding contributions to the development of Mexican and Southern Californian art has been dramatically overlooked. A prolific painter and an innovative teacher, Ramos Martinez has been a victim of circumstance; an inexplicable lapse in memory. At a time when Mexican art gained great momentum with the Mexican Muralist movement with such recognizable names as Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, Ramos Martinez’s substantial artistic vision had all been but erased. However, a truly great artist remains just that. “If Mexican modernism is the product of the 1910 Revolution, which projected not only a utopian vision of the future, but also a return to Mexico’s roots,” as Hans Haufe states, “Ramos Martinez stands among the painters that initiated that movement.” His legacy lives on and his work is now gaining the recognition it deservedly needs.

David Alfaro Siqueiros

David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), one of the great Mexican mural painters, introduced technical innovations in his murals and easel paintings.

David Alfaro Siqueiros was born in Chihuahua. He was educated at the National School of Fine Arts, Mexico City, and did further study in Spain, Italy, and France. He served as an officer in Venustiano Carranza’s army (1910-1916) and as military attache;in Paris (1917).

The People for the University. The University for the People., 1952–56

As one of the artists who collaborated in painting the murals for the staircase at the National Preparatory School, Mexico City (1922), Siqueiros became one of the founders of the mural movement in Mexico. He served as secretary general of the Painters Syndicate and became one of the editors of its publication, El machete. With Amado de la Cueva he organized the Alliance of Painters in Guadalajara in 1925, and there he worked with De la Cueva and Carlos Orozco on decorations for the University of Guadalajara. Siqueiros served as a representative of various workers’ organizations to Russia in 1928 and as a delegate to workers’ meetings in South America in 1929. In 1931 he was exiled to Taxco for political reasons.

David Alfaro Siqueiros, For the Complete Safety of all Mexicans at Work (detail), 1952-4

David Alfaro Siqueiros, For the Complete Safety of all Mexicans at Work (detail), 1952–54

David Alfaro Siqueiros, Portraits (Monument to the Mural Painters of Mexico) detail

David Alfaro Siqueiros, Portraits (Monument to the Mural Painters of Mexico)

 

Siqueiros was a professor at the Chouinard School of Art, Los Angeles (1932-1933), where he developed new technical processes for outdoor murals, including the use of airbrushes to apply paint. Beginning in 1934 he devoted himself more and more to easel painting and carried out various experiments with Duco paint, for example, Echo of a Scream (1937).
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Siqueiros was a delegate from the Congress of Mexican Artists to the Congress of Revolutionary Artists in New York City in 1936, and there he established a school in which he set forth his revolutionary artistic ideas. In 1937 he joined the Spanish Republican Army. From 1939 to 1944 he resided in Cuba and Chile.

Despues De La Grand Tormenta

The principal works by Siqueiros in Mexico City are the Trial of Fascism in the Electrical Workers Union building (1939), Cuauhtmoc against the Myth in Sonora No. 9 (1944), New Democracy in the Palace of Fine Arts (1945), Patricians and Patricides in the former Customs House (1945), Ascent of Culture in the National University of Mexico (1952-1956), and Future Victory of Medical Science Against Cancer in the Medical Center (1958). His best-known mural outside Mexico City, Death to the Invader, is in Chill Chile (1941-1942).

From 1960 to 1964 Siqueiros was imprisoned by the Mexican government for the crime of social dissolution, but later he completed a mural commissioned by the Mexican government at Chapultepec Castle. In 1969 he spoke at the First National Painting Contest, in which some 7,000 artists from all parts of Mexico participated.

His next major work was The March of Humanity on the Congress Hall of Mexico City, one of the first buildings ever built specifically to house a mural. Incorporating different materials and methods, it united architecture, sculpture, and painting in what was called a baroque and futuristic extrapolation of realism. In 1968 he became president of the Academy of Arts in Mexico City. A retrospective of his work was shown at the Center for Inter-American Relations, and a three-dimensional mural was permanently installed in the Siqueiros Center in Mexico City.