Xavier Martínez

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Xavier Martinez
Self-Portrait, 1902
Born (1869-02-07)February 7, 1869
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Died January 13, 1943(1943-01-13) (aged 73)
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Nationality American (naturalized)
Education California School of Design, École des Beaux Arts, Académie Eugène Carrière
Known for painting

Xavier Martínez (February 7, 1869 – January 13, 1943) was a California artist active in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was a well-known bohemian figure in San Francisco, the East Bay, and the Monterey Peninsula and one of the co-founders of two California artists' organizations and an art gallery. He painted in a tonalist style and also produced monotypes and etchings. He was originally christened Javier Timoteo Martinez y Orozco, but later called himself Xavier Tizoc Martinez, the middle name acknowledging his Tarascan heritage. He was known to his friends as "Marty."[1]

Childhood in Guadalajara[edit]

Martinez began drawing his classmates and teachers at a young age while attending public school. After school he worked in his father's bookstore bookbinding and helping with printing chores. He learned French and wrote poetry, admiring the poems of Goethe, Schiller and various French poets. In his later autobiographical writings he recalled how at age ten his mother would teach him about the movements of celestial bodies. Martinez reflected that at this age he had his first awareness that there was a rhythm in the order of things. At age 13 he began attending the Liceo de Varones (Grammar School for Men), where he studied pre-Columbian archaeology and his Tarascan heritage. He excelled in Indian designs and arts, and painted an oil copy of Entombment by Titian.

San Francisco, 1893 to 1897[edit]

Photo of Martinez's studio with a caricature of the artist, San Francisco Call, 30 July 1905

Upon arrival in San Francisco, Martinez enrolled in the California School of Design, also known as the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. In 1895 he received the school's Avery Golden Medal in painting and an honorable mention in drawing.[2] He graduated in 1897, worked briefly as assistant to the head of the Institute, Arthur Frank Mathews, and became a member of the Bohemian Club.

Paris, 1897 to 1901[edit]

Martinez entered the Paris École des Beaux Arts, Atelier Gérome. In 1898 he sent a number of paintings of Paris scenes back to the Bohemian Club for an exhibition in San Francisco.[citation needed] In 1900 he entered the Academy of Eugène Carrière and won an honorable mention at the Paris International Exposition.[1]

Return to San Francisco, Mexico trips and marriage[edit]

In 1901, he shared a studio in San Francisco with Gottardo Piazzoni[citation needed] and that year became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He advertised as a portrait painter, but also continued to paint tonalist landscapes. In the subsequent year he helped found the California Society of Artists with Piazzoni, Maynard Dixon, Charles Peter Neilson and other artists who were disaffected with the San Francisco Art Association.[3] Their first and only exhibition included seventeen works by Martinez, mostly French scenes.[1] In 1904 he began sharing a studio with Maynard Dixon, and the two travelled to Tepic, Mexico; upon his return he held an exhibition at the Bohemian Club.[citation needed]

Afternoon in Piedmont (Elsie Whitaker Martinez), ca. 1908

In 1905 he spent two months in Guadalajara with Maynard Dixon. Upon his return to San Francisco he held a number of exhibitions, and also gave one show in New York, emphasizing the recent Mexican genre paintings.[citation needed] That year he produced a painting a critic called a "masterpiece," given the title The Prayer of the Earth by his poet friend George Sterling.[4] After the Earthquake of 1906 he moved across the bay to Piedmont, California and met Elsie Whitaker, daughter of the writer Herman Whitaker. On October 17, 1907 he married Elsie in Oakland and commenced building a studio in Piedmont.[1]

Art and teaching career[edit]

Martinez was one of a group of artists invited to create an art gallery in the Hotel Del Monte in 1907. In 1909, he began teaching at the California School of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley, the predecessor of today's California College of Arts. He taught summer classes in the Monterey area from 1909 to 1914. In 1912 he helped found the California Society of Etchers; then, the following year he was elected to the National Geographic Society and given a key to the Capitol Club in Monterey. Also in 1913 he made a painting trip to the Arizona desert with Francis McComas. On August 26, 1913 his daughter Micaela was born.

In 1914, Impressionists Childe Hassam and Edward Simmons came to Piedmont to view Martinez' desert paintings. The following year he exhibited at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition (where he won honorable mention) and at the Golden Gate Park Museum in San Francisco. Throughout this period he had shows in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Noted paintings of this period are Head of a Girl, The Storm, Piedmont Hills and Lake Merritt. He taught at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco from 1916 to 1917. Between 1916 to 1920 he had numerous exhibitions including at the Palace of Fine Arts, The San Francisco Art Association and the Hotel Oakland. Martinez became a member of the American Federation of Arts in 1921. In subsequent years he continued to exhibit, but was increasingly called upon to be a juror of other artists' works. In 1935 he showed The Green Moon at the San Francisco Museum of Art. In 1939 he exhibited Portrait of Elsie at the Golden Gate International Exposition, Treasure Island. Martinez was selected in 1940 to represent California in the Hall of Fame at the World's Fair of 1940 in New York as one of three (along with Father Junipero Serra and William Keith).


During the last two decades of his life, Martinez became increasingly interested in his indigenous Mexican heritage. He published poetry and philosophic writings in a column entitled "Notas de un Chichimeca" in the Hispano-Americano, San Francisco's Spanish-language newspaper.[5]

Permanent collections[edit]

Xavier Martinez' paintings are held in the following museums:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Shields, Scott A. (2006). Artists at Continent's End: the Monterey Peninsula Art Colony, 1875-1907. Crocker Art Museum and University of California Press. ISBN 9780520247390. 
  2. ^ http://xaviertizocmartinez.wordpress.com/ Jeffrey Morseburg, "The Dark Beauty of Xavier Martinez"
  3. ^ Hagerty, Donald L. (2010). The Life of Maynard Dixon. Gibbs Smith. p. 62-63. ISBN 9781423603795. 
  4. ^ San Francisco Call, 30 July 1905, p. 19
  5. ^ A History of Mexican Americans in California: Historic Sites/Martinez House, Oakland In 1935 his article Aztecas—Naluatlecas or Mexicas appeared in California Arts and Architecture.

External links[edit]