Mel Ramos was born in Sacramento, California in 1935. In 1954, he began studying art and art history at Sacramento Junior College. He then went on to California State University and studied under Wayne Thiebaud, who’s realistic style, everyday objects as subjects and bold color pallet must have heavily influenced Ramos. The early works by Mel Ramos were inspired by comic books of the 1960s. He explains “I was attracted to comics back then, because of the eroticism before the Comics Code was imposed. After that, comic books got kind of boring. The drawings in those early comics books of Sheena and all those sexy comic queens, that’s what attracted me. Originally, I was just doing comic book images the way they appeared and then I decided I wanted to make them look more realistic, so I started adding the faces of celebrities, which I still do.”
Ramos’ nudes in the 1960s were first noticed by collectors at the same time pin-up artists Gil Elvgren and Earl Moran were a popular part of American culture through calendars and advertising. While Ramos appreciates these pin-up artists and owns an Elvgren, he has said that in those days he was inspired by Spanish painters, such as Joaquin Sorolla, and Diego Velasquez.
As his style developed, he began incorporating recognizable brands into his paintings along with the nudes. Like other Pop Artists of the time, Mel Ramos was making a statement about aspects of popular culture as represented in mass media. It was at this time that Ramos was established as one of the leading artists in the Pop Art Movement. His work was part of the exhibition “Pop Goes the East” at the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston in 1963. Throughout the rest of his career and still today, he has had numerous solo and group gallery shows worldwide. His work has also been show in museums, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, Oakland Museum of California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum and The MontrŽal Museum of Fine Art to name a few.
After holding several teaching positions throughout his career, Mel Ramos accepted a chair position at California State University in Hayward in 1980. He also began to paint self portraits and landscape. By 1986, Ramos is awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship Grant and a United States/France Exchange Fellowship. Since 1992, he has lived in California and Spain. His work has been controversial over the years, but he has secured an important place in American art history.