Friday, May 1, 2015

Alfredo Ramos Martinez

Portrait of Belinda Palavicini
Pastel on paper
187.0 x 87.0 cm
Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico

Alfredo Ramos Martinez (c.1872-1946) was born in Monterrey, in the State of Nuevo Leon, in Mexico. He was considered by many to be the founding father of Modern Mexican Art.

His father, a middle-class storekeeper, and his mother were strongly supportive of artistic endeavors of young Alfredo. At the impressionable age of only nine years old, he sent a portrait he had painted of the  governor of the State of Nuevo Leon to a competition in San Antonio, Texas and was awarded first prize. He 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.

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. He returned to Mexico in 1910 and three years later he was appointed the Director of the National Academy. Taking its cue from the Impressionist concept of painting in the outdoors, the 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."

He married in 1928 and a year later his daughter was born with a crippling bone disease. His left Mexico in 1930 seeking medical attention for her in the United States. He settled in Los Angeles where her condition was successfully treated. The works produced in California by him at this time are abruptly modern, yet they focus on prevailing themes of the Mexican renaissance. He was commissioned to paint numerous murals throughout the United States and Mexico including, many celebrity homes.