Alfredo Ramos Martínez
1871-1946 | Mexican
In the Ranch, Mexico
Signed "Ramos Martinez" (lower right); inscribed "In the Ranch, Mexico" (en verso)
Oil on board
Alongside Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo stands the great Alfredo Ramos Martínez as one of the most important Mexican artists of the modern age. Over a long career, Ramos Martínez produced works in a modern idiom that was both nostalgic and accessible, but never sentimental, and with a remarkable beauty in their simplicity of form and structure. In the Ranch, Mexico offers clear testimony to the artist’s ability to capture the spirit of Mexican life with his distinctive aesthetic sensibility – highly stylized compositions and a palette bursting with rich and earthy color.
Throughout his life, Ramos Martínez composed Gauguinesque representations of Mexico's indigenous people that promoted a romanticized view of Mexican culture. He was among the first artists of the modern era to paint Mexican subjects while working outdoors with live Indian models, which was very much in the tradition of the French Impressionists painting en plein air. In In the Ranch, Mexico, Ramos Martínez's figures appear at one with the landscape. He used the same limited color tones to render both the peasants and the building and hills that surround them. The work is clearly a product of its time – Ramos Martínez brings together elements of Art Deco, reducing classical motifs to their essential form through geometric stylization. It is the work's narrative strength, ascetic palette and purity of line that makes it so compelling even today.
In the Ranch, Mexico was painted at the height of the artist's career while he was living in California seeking medical care for his daughter. During his self-imposed exile, Ramos Martínez achieved remarkable success in Los Angeles, securing work painting murals almost immediately upon his arrival in 1929. Though his compositions capture the spirit of Mexican life, his success in California proves that his legacy transcended cultural borders, and today he is also considered a major figure of California Modernism as well as Mexican art.
Born in Monterrey in 1871, Alfredo Ramos Martínez began his artistic career at an early age. When he was just fourteen years old, his portrait of the governor of Nuevo León was awarded first prize at an art exhibition in San Antonio. The prize came with a scholarship to the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and thus Ramos Martínez began his studies as an artist.
From the beginning, he rebelled against the strict Academic structure of his classes and his teachers' adherence to prevailing European aesthetics. Yet, in 1899 Phoebe Apperson Hearst visited the school and was so impressed by Ramos Martínez's talent that she agreed to finance the young painter's studies in Paris. His time spent in Europe, where he fraternized with the likes of Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Joaquín Sorolla, who would significantly influence the trajectory of his career.
Using the techniques he had so faithfully studied and practiced during his European years, Ramos Martínez succeeded in creating a new kind of Mexican art, bringing together an awareness of Mexico’s pre-Columbian history and culture with modern aesthetics. His subjects particularly appealed to a Hollywood clientele who became significant patrons of Mexican art, including screenwriter Jo Swerling; the directors Dudley Murphy and Alfred Hitchcock; and actors John Huston, Corinne Griffith, Charles Laughton and Beulah Bondi. Today, his works are highly prized in private collections, achieving significant prices at auction, and they are held in museum collections around the world, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museo Andres Blaisten, San Diego Museum of Art and the Phoenix Art Museum.
This important work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné for Martínez's paintings and frescoes currently being prepared by the Alfredo Ramos Martínez Research Project.
Board: 23 7/8" high x 27 3/8" wide
Frame: 30 13/16" high x 34 1/8" wide