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 Xavier Martinez  (1869 - 1943)

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Lived/Active: California / Mexico      Known for: landscape and coastal painting, graphics

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Ad Code: 2
Xavier Timoteo Martinez
from Auction House Records.
Eucalyptus Grove in a Vast Landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Xavier Timoteo (Tizoc) y Orozco Martinez was a painter noted for his Tonalist style, an etcher, lithographer and long-time art activist in northern California.

He began his art studies in Mexico, and moved to San Francisco in 1893 when his stepfather became consul-general from Mexico.  Martinez enrolled at the School of Design as a pupil of Arthur Mathews and won high honors including a scholarship to study with Jean Leon Gerome at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he stayed five years, 1897-1901.  During this time, he adopted Tonalism with somber greys, greens and browns. He also spent time with James McNeill Whistler, who had a strong influence on his work, especially with the Tonalist aesthetic.

In 1901, he established a studio in San Francisco and became one of the city's most colorful, popular Bohemian characters.  Known as "Marty," he had a shock of jet black hair, wore baggy velvet trousers, corduroy coat, colorful sash, crimson tie, and velvet beret.

Martinez was a good friend of Maynard Dixon, and with Dixon and other 'bohemian' cronies, shared many hilarious evenings of wine and food at Coppa's, a favorite restaurant at 622 Montgomery Street in San Francisco.  In 1905, the two artists took a trip to Mexico together to Guadalajara, the boyhood home of Martinez.  They traveled free by train through Tucson and El Paso on artist passes issued by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

With William Keith and Charles Rollo Peters, he co-founded in Monterey the Del Monte Art Gallery, which was the first gallery dedicated to California artists.  In 1906, his studio was destroyed by fire, and he moved across the bay to Piedmont where the surrounding hills became a frequent subject of his canvases.

From 1909 to 1942, he was Professor of Painting at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and was so revered the California legislature adjourned early as a gesture of respect the day he died.  A retrospective exhibition in 1974 in Oakland included many Southwest as well as California landscapes.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel:
Xavier Martinez moved to San Francisco from his native Mexico in 1893, when his step-father was made Consul-General. Martinez continued art studies, begun in Mexico, at the School of Design, where he studied with Arthur Mathews.

Martinez excelled, and was awarded a scholarship to study in Paris. Martinez returned to California in 1901, and soon after co-founded Monterey's Del Monte Art Gallery with William Keith and Charles Rollo Peters.

When he lost his studio in the 1906 quake and fire, Martinez moved across the bay to Piedmont, and taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts from 1909-1942. The hills around his home in Piedmont were a major source of subject matter for Martinez' tonal atmospheric works.

Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site:
Xavier Martínez was an American painter, illustrator, etcher and teacher who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, of Spanish and Indian stock, on February 7, 1869.  One source records his year of birth as 1874, but this writer found two reliable sources for 1869, and believes this to be correct.  Also, one source documents his middle name as "Timoteo" instead of "Tizoc"; since he is documented as a descendant of the Aztecs, "Tizoc" would tend to be more correct.  Timoteo was probably a nickname.

He was educated at the Liceo de Varones in Guadalajara.  He was brought to San Francisco by foster parents since his stepfather was made consul-general in San Francisco.  He studied at Mark Hopkins Institute as the pupil of Arthur Mathews up to 1895.  By the end of the second year at that school he had won all the highest honors awarded including a scholarship for further study in Paris at the École Nationale et Speciale des Beaux-Arts and Acadèmie Carrière, where he studied for six years as the pupil of Gérôme and Carrière.  In Paris Martínez was influenced by Whistler; according to some critics the evidence of Whistler can be seen in his work.

He established a studio in San Francisco in 1901 as one of San Francisco's most flamboyant "Bohemians," while living in the Italian Quarter.  Known as "Marty" to his friends, he wore baggy velvet trousers, a colorful sash around his ample waist, velvet beret and a flowing crimson tie.  Along with William Keith and Charles Rollo Peters, he co-founded the Del Monte Art Gallery in Monterey, the first gallery devoted exclusively to California artists.  After his "vivid" paintings were lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire, he established his studio in the Piedmont hills at 324 Scenic Avenue.  

From 1909 until 1942, he was professor of painting at California School of the Arts and Crafts in Berkeley, remembered for his tie and his strictness with students.  At the New York World's Fair in 1940, Martínez was selected as one of the six hundred foreign-born Americans making outstanding contributions to culture.  In 1974, a Martínez retrospective in Oakland included California and Southwestern desert landscapes.  When William Merritt Chase saw one of Martìnez's paintings in a New York studio, he remarked, "Why don't we know this man's work?  He is a great artist."  But Martìnez preferred to remain in the San Francisco.  He also made sketching trips to Mexico and Arizona where he painted the Hopi in 1913.

The California Legislature adjourned early in his memory on the day of his death on January 13, 1943.  The subdued atmospheric light of his paintings embraces Tonalism.  Most of his low-keyed landscapes are of the Piedmont Hills.  He signed his work with a monogram:  early works in Paris were "JTM" superimposed in a circle, and finally XM within a circle made with a Chinese stone stamp.

Martínez was a member of American Federation of Arts in San Francisco, San Francisco Sketch Club, Bohemian Club, Athenian and Niles Clubs of Oakland and San Francisco Arts Association.  His work was exhibited extensively and he won many awards during his career.  His works are held in the collections of Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado, Arizona; Oakland Museum, Bohemian Club and the De Young Museum, in San Francisco, to name a few.


Dawdy, Doris Ostrander.  Artists of the American West:  A Biographical Dictionary.  [1974] 3 vols.  Chicago: Swallow Press.  1985.

Hughes, Edan Milton.  Artists in California:  1786-1940.  San Francisco: Hughes Publishing Company.  1986.

Lewis, Oscar.  Bay Window Bohemia.  Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc.  1956.

Samuels, Peggy and Harold.  Samuels' Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.  New Jersey: Castle.  1985.

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