Untitled Painting of Pueblo Thunderbird [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' 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, completed in watercolor and ink on beautiful light brown paper, is an excellent example of Martinez working from a place of true creativity.  The majority of his works were either traditional flat style images or pieces made in collaboration with his wife, and so pieces like this are rare and exciting. He used traditional pueblo imagery—kiva steps and what may be inverted rain clouds, most notably—along with simple abstract shapes and patterns to create a pueblo thunderbird.

Artist Signature - Julián Martinez (1885-1943) Pocano - Coming of the SpiritsMartinez’s lime green thunderbird is augmented with bold primary colors.  His watercolors, applied within carefully inked outlines, are simultaneously soft and bright.  His linework is graceful and deliberate, outlining the nearly symmetrical image and creating the details that lie within.  Black ink defines the bird’s real features: its beak, eye and legs. Rows of black triangles serve as feathers, reaching out from the bird’s head and wings.  Aside from these necessary details, the image is all graceful abstraction. This wonderful combination of traditional pueblo imagery and unique artistic innovation will delight collectors of early pueblo paintings.

Condition: this Untitled Painting of Pueblo Thunderbird is in very good condition
Provenance: from the collection of a New Mexico resident

Close up view of the Thunderbird image.

Julián Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo Painter
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