• Beyond the Canvas

Spring in art part 6: It's always spring in Mexico

I now realise this series has very much gone from 'spring in art' to 'flowers in art'. And granted, chances are Mexico is blessed with beautiful flowers all year round. But the point here is to celebrate the symbolism of flowers (rebirth, hope, beauty, love, you name it) as opposed to their seasonality, so here goes.


That of Alfredo Ramos Martinez is a name I suspect won't ring many bells. Together with the more celebrated Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco and, of course, Kahlo, he was one of the founding fathers of Mexican Modernism, a movement whose aesthetics and depiction of Mexican life was instrumental in shaping the country's cultural identity, the so-called mexicanidad.


Ramos Martinez lived and worked in Paris for 14 years, so of course his early work oozes Post-Impressionism. But on his return to post-revolutionary Mexico in 1910 his style evolved and became firmly rooted in his native culture. We see these changes in the highly stylised representation of the human body, particularly the women's hands, and in the way the picture plane is flattened almost looking like a collage.


Despite the similarities in the subject matter, these works (thankfully) lack the controversial sensuality of Gauguin's Tahitian period. Far, far away from the eroticised representation of exotic indigenous women, Ramon Martinez's artistic world was inhabited by ordinary Mexican people, his own people, such as peasants and street sellers.


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Alfredo Ramos Martinez, La Florera de Santa Anita (ca. 1932).

Private collection. Photo credit: https://www.alfredoramosmartinez.com/paintings-and-drawings


Alfredo Ramos Martinez, Florida Mexicana (ca. 1936) Photo credit: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

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