Alfredo Ramos Martínez
1871-1946 | Mexican
Mujer con flores
(Woman with Flowers)
Signed "Ramos Martinez" (lower left)
Tempera and Conté crayon on paper laid down on cardboard
One of the founders of Mexican Modernism, Alfredo Ramos Martínez was celebrated for his powerful and thoroughly modern depictions of Mexico’s indigenous people. Nostalgic and accessible, his artwork bears the heavy influence of the ideals of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, after which he shrugs off the influence of his European training to capture a wholly unique modern Mexican idiom. Mujer con flores is exemplary of perhaps the most coveted subset of his oeuvre — indigenous women depicted with tropical flora. With its heavy lines, earthy palette, flattened planes and textural patterning, it brings together all of the most distinctive elements of Martínez's revolutionary style.
Throughout his career, Ramos Martínez was celebrated for his representations of Mexico's indigenous people that promoted a romanticized view of Mexican culture. A contemporary of the other greats of Mexican Modernism, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Martínez developed a similar folkloric indigenismo that fully evolved in his later works such as this. Interestingly, it was his relocation to California that cemented this mature style; he moved there in 1930 to seek medical care for his daughter. Perhaps it was a longing for the culture that he left behind that rooted his works so fully in his Mexican identity. Fortunately, his highly modern, youthful indigenous subjects proved remarkably popular to his California clientele, and they frequently appeared in both his easel and mural paintings of this period. In fact, Mujer con flores only slightly predates his famed murals at Scripps College near Los Angeles, which he painted in 1937 and closely resemble the present work in both subject and style.
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.
Louis Stern has confirmed the authenticity of this work. It will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné for Martínez's paintings and frescoes currently being prepared by the Alfredo Ramos Martínez Research Project.
Cardboard: 30 5/8" high x 27 3/4" wide
Frame: 34 3/4" high x 31 3/4" wide