Alfredo Ramos Martínez 1871-1946
Cantú Y de Teresa Collection
Cantú Y de Teresa Collection
Alfredo Ramos Martínez (November 12, 1871 in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico – November 8, 1946 in Los Angeles) was a painter, muralist, and educator, who lived and worked in Mexico, Paris, and Los Angeles. Considered by many to be the 'Father of Mexican Modernism', Ramos Martínez is best known for his serene and empathetic paintings of traditional Mexican people and scenes. As the renowned Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío wrote, "Ramos Martínez is one of those who paints poems; he does not copy, he interprets; he understands how to express the sorrow of the fisherman and the melancholy of the village.”
Ramos Martínez was born in 1871 in Monterrey, Nuevo León, the ninth child of Jacobo Ramos and his wife Luisa Martínez His father was a successful merchant trading in jewelry, fine fabrics, silver, embroidered suits and hand-woven sarapes from Saltillo.
From an early age Ramos Martínez was recognized as prodigiously talented. As a student, his preferred medium was watercolor and he won numerous awards for his achievements.
In a supreme bit of good fortune, Phoebe Hearst attended a dinner in Mexico City for the President of Mexico, Porfirio Díaz, which featured place mats designed and painted by the young Ramos Martínez. Hearst was so impressed with the decoration that she asked to meet the artist and see other examples of his work. After their meeting, she not only bought all of Ramos Martínez's watercolors, but agreed to provide financial support for the artist's continued study in Paris
Ramos Martínez's arrival in Paris in 1900 coincided with further development of the Post-Impressionist movement. He was able to see firsthand the work of Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Georges Seurat and Odilon Redon. Furthermore, Hearst’s monthly stipend of 500 francs, combined with Ramos Martínez's fluent French, afforded him a comfortable lifestyle and the ability to travel throughout Europe.
Ramos Martínez showed at a number of galleries in Paris. One of the leading art critics of the day, Camille Mauclair wrote that the work of Ramos Martínez was in the same class as the finest Impressionist landscapes exhibited in Paris. Though sales of his artwork were proceeding, and Ramos Martínez had achieved a degree of comfort as a ‘Parisian’, in 1909 he felt a strong desire to return home to Mexico.
By the time Ramos Martínez arrived in early 1910, Mexico was a nation in turmoil.The Mexican Revolution was beginning in earnest and the 30-year rule of President Porfirio Díaz was on the verge of collapse due to the pressure of the political reforms of Francisco I. Madero. Within a year of the President’s resignation in 1911, the art students at the National Academy called a strike in order to protest the 'aesthetic dictatorship' of the Academy. They demanded the establishment of a 'Free Academy' and proposed Ramos Martínez as director. Hailed as a distinguished alumnus, a bona fide European success, and sympathetic to the students’ cause, Ramos Martínez became first the assistant Director and, by 1913, the Director of the Academy.
Now, as Director, he was able to open the first of his Open Air Schools of Painting. With the example of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in mind and fortified by his sense of the primacy of the artist’s personal vision, Ramos Martínez's Open Air Schools redefined the nature of artistic instruction in Mexico
The political situation in Mexico remained extremely volatile for the next decade and by 1920 Ramos Martínez was reinstated as Director of the Academy. Despite all the politics, the Open Air Schools flourished and Ramos Martínez was acknowledged as a true innovator in the Mexican art world and frequently called the 'Father of Modern Mexican Art'.
Having relocated to Los Angeles in 1929, Ramos Martínez was offered an exhibition by William Alanson Bryan, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) at Exposition Park. A number of subsequent exhibitions followed, with Martínez developing a strong following in the Hollywood community.
Alfredo Ramos Martínez died unexpectedly at the age of 73 on November 8, 1946 in Los Angeles. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. At the time of his death, Ramos Martínez was working on a series of murals entitled "The Flower Vendors" at Scripps College[ The unfinished murals have been preserved as a tribute to the artist