Hailed by some as the Father of Mexican Modern Art, Alfredo Ramos Martinez has sadly been overlooked in recent years. However, this does not diminish Martinez’s legacy. He inspired the artists of southern California and his own students with his love of his native country and inventive style.
From a young age, Martinez was talented. Born in Monterrey, Mexico in 1871, his family was very supportive of his interest in art. At nine he painted a portrait of the Governor of Monterrey that was eventually sent to an exhibition in San Antoino, Texas. Impressed by his work, Martinez won first prize and the ability to attend Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
He did not enjoy his time in school and would often wander away to observed everyday life in Mexico City. The sunny plazas and narrow streets became a sanctuary and muse for sketches and watercolors.
Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst, paid an official visit to Mexico City in 1899. The Mexican President requested that Martinez create hand printed menus for an official dinner. Phoebe Hearst was so impressed that she asked to meet Alfredo Ramos Martinez and offered to pay a monthly stipend for him to study in Paris.
While in Paris, he developed a post-Impressionist style. He wanted to express emotional depth and go beyond simply distorting subjects. He would run out of sketch paper, but one day his landlord gave him newspaper. The use of newspaper gave his art a new kind of texture and quickly became a favorite medium.
The Mexican Revolution prompted Martinez to return to Mexico. Thanks to a teaching post, he was able to found the Open Air School Project, which encouraged painting outside and breaking away from European style and teaching methods. Martinez encouraged his students to paint Mexican subjects. Muralist David Alfaro Siquieros was among his students.
In 1929, Martinez moved to Los Angeles for the wellbeing of his infant daughter, who suffered from a bone disease. Martinez introduced California to Mexican iconography and mural works. Celebrities such as designer Edith Head, and Alfred Hitchcock commissioned murals from him. Alfredo Ramos Martinez is a celebrated Mexican artist that inspired a generation of muralists and artists.