Untitled Painting of a Pueblo Deer Dancer by Pocano [SOLD]


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Julián Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter

Julián Martinez (1885-1943) Pocano - Coming of the Spirits was an artist who was born, lived most of his life, and died at the small but artistically rich San Ildefonso Pueblo. He is perhaps best known for painting designs onto the pottery vessels created by his wife—the famous San Ildefonso potter Maria Martinez.  He painted works on paper, too, and did so successfully despite receiving no formal art education. He was the father of Popovi Da and the grandfather of Tony Da, both of whom went on to become famous and successful artists themselves. Martinez was an important part of two major artistic movements: the beginnings of both black-on-black San Ildefonso pottery and traditional “flat style” pueblo painting.

Artist Signature _ Julián Martinez (1885-1943) Pocano - Coming of the SpiritsHis works on paper are considered most rare, simply because he didn't have time very much to paint.  Besides painter and pottery designer, his various occupations included farmer, laborer, Museum of New Mexico janitor, and Governor of San Ildefonso Pueblo.  According to Jeanne Snodgrass’ American Indian Painters: A Biographical Directory, Martinez began painting around 1920.  He mostly painted traditional pueblo “flat style” depictions of pueblo dancers, but occasionally strayed away from tradition and towards abstract symbolism. Martinez' paintings were among those selected by Mary Jane Colter to decorate La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received several commissions for murals, which can be seen at the Santa Fe Indian School; Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado; and the School for Advaced Research in Santa Fe.

This untitled piece is classic Julian Martinez—a single pueblo dancer, pictured in profile, made of opaque watercolors.  This style and this subject were Martinez’s favorites, and he excelled when working with them. This piece, with its strong black and white paints, is a particularly strong image.  Martinez’s subject here is of great importance to the pueblo people: the Deer Dancer. To be a deer dancer is a great honor, and it is apparent in this work that Martinez took similar pride in his thoughtful depiction of the revered figure.  

With this piece, Martinez paid extra attention to the details of his subject’s clothing.  His color palette was small but deliberate, effectively highlighting two areas. The dancer’s head and kilt are highlighted with bright yellow, green, pink, and red.  The rest of the image is made of thick, opaque black and white paints, contrasting sharply and making the piece feel more dramatic than the average pueblo painting. This is an exemplary work from one of the most significant figures in the history of Pueblo Indian artwork.  

Condition: The signature has faded partially.  There are small marks around the edges of the piece, possibly as a result of being placed under matting that is not of archival quality.
Provenance: this Untitled Painting of a Pueblo Deer Dancer by Pocano is from the large collection of a New Mexico resident

Close up view of the deer dancer.

Julián Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter
C4084K-paint.jpgC4084K-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.