Untitled Painting of a Warrior on Horseback [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.

His 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's 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 Advanced Research in Santa Fe.

This untitled watercolor painting includes a bit of both aforementioned painting styles.  It shows a warrior on horseback, crafted with simple watercolors and without a background. Within the warrior’s shield, the viewer is treated to a small taste of the abstract symbolism style mentioned above.  Here, Martinez displays a clever compositional mind with his use of color—the warrior and horse are composed of soft, pale colors; while the shield is composed of bright, bold colors. The shield jumps out immediately at the viewer, while the horse and warrior settle in behind it.  One must wonder if the artist—who rarely painted armed warriors—was making some sort of statement about these implements. Whatever his intention, it’s a beautiful and unexpected piece from one of San Ildefonso’s most significant figures.

The painting is signed “Julian Martinez” in its lower right corner.  It is framed beautifully underneath thick, wide matting in a three-tiered black frame.

Condition: this Untitled Painting of a Warrior on Horseback is in excellent condition
Provenance: from the collection of a New Mexico resident

Julián Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter
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