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Mel Ramos

Biography from the Archives of askART

A California artist whose work reflects a variety of styles from Pop Art* to Surrealism*, Mel Ramos painted pretty, sexy women as pinups or trophies as well highly realistic, almost trompe l'oeil* landscapes.  A typical example of his Pop style was Chiquita, oil on canvas, 1964.

At the height of modernism in the 1950s, when figuration almost died out across America, he and other California artists kept it alive during the 1960s.  Portraiture was essentially dead at that time, and although nudes were occasionally painted, they were no longer idealized.  With society's increased openness about sex, nudes became erotic and almost pornographic.

Mel Ramos was born in Sacramento and attended Sacramento City College from 1954 to 1955 and San Jose State College from 1955 to 1956.  He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees.  As a student he painted symbolic, surrealistic works that were influenced by Salvadore Dali.  He then experimented with Pop Art, abstraction including a series of variations on Willem de Kooning's "Woman" paintings, and photo-real* landscapes whose tone was hard and steely.

Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area

*For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from
Born: July 24, 1935 - Sacramento, CA

The popularity of his works is evident in the fact that since 1959 he has participated in more than 120 group shows.  He has enjoyed great success and critical acclaim as an adventuresome artist with the creativity and sense of humor it takes to remain on top.  Mel Ramos received his first important recognition in the early 1960s. Ramos, along with other artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg and James Rosenquist, who produced art works that celebrated aspects of popular culture as represented in mass media.  His paintings were shown along with theirs in major exhibitions of Pop Art* both in this country and in Europe and were reproduced, often with irony, in books, catalogs, and periodicals throughout the world.

Ramos was born in 1935 at Sacramento, California.  Between 1954 and 1958, he studied at the Sacramento City College, the San José State College and the Sacramento State College, finishing with an M.A.  From 1958 he taught at various institutions including Elk Grove High School, Mira Lama High School and California State College.  In 1962-63 he began a series of garishly colored super-heroes taken from comic strips using a thick oleaginous pigment.  In 1963 he was first included in a collective exhibition in "Pop Goes the East" at the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston.

In 1964 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Bianchini Gallery, New York.  In 1965 he developed a specific kind of Pop Art iconography by combining nude pin-up girls from American magazines and advertisements with branded products. In 1966 he exhibited at the Galerie Ricke, Kassel.  In 1967 he had a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art;  In 1969 he was represented in the exhibition Human Concerns at the Whitney Museum, New York, and had a one-man exhibition at the Gegenverkehr, Aachen.

He exhibited at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, in 1972, and was represented at the Pop Art exhibition at the Whitney Museum, New York, in 1974. In 1975 he had a retrospective at the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, and in 1977 at the Oakland Museum, California.  In 1978 he was included in the exhibition Art "About Art ', Whitney Museum, New York and at the Church Fine Arts Gallery, University of Nevada, Reno, and the Galeria Plura, Milan, Italy.

In 1980, the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University presented "Mel Ramos: A Twenty Year Survey".  1981 saw a solo show at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in New York City; in 1985 the Meisel Gallery mounted another, "The Four Seasons", and he has been showing regularly with them since then: "Beauty And The Beast" in 1989, "The Artist's Studio" in 1991, "Mel Ramos - The Heroines" of 1962-64, and in 1993, "Mel Ramos: The Unfinished Painting Series".

Ramos has also been featured at the Hokin/Kaufman Gallery, Chicago (1986); "Mel Ramos - Early Paintings" was presented by Galerie Tanja Grunert, Cologne, West Germany in 1986, and Studio Trisorio, Naples, Italy featured his works in 1987.  In 1994-95 "Mel Ramos - Retrospective", a traveling exhibition in Germany and Austria, was shown at the Kunstverein Lingen, Lingen; the Mannheimer Kunstverein, Mannheim; the Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Kiel; and then went to Vienna under title "Mel Ramos: Pop Art Images", showing at the Hochscule fur Angewandte Kunst.

Some critical observers of the "art scene" persist in classifying Mel Ramos as a Pop Artist.  His identification with the Pop movement of the 1960's was much too narrow to account for the braoder context of his paintings.  His humor is not satire of ridicule.  His "parodies"are respectful, affectionate tributes, a celebration of images with personal meanining.



1954-55 Sacramento Junior College, CA

1955-56 San Jose State College, CA

1957 Sacramento State College, B.A.

1958 Sacramento State College, M.A.


1958-60 Elk Grove High School

1960-66 Mira Loma High School

1965-66 Sacramento State University

1966 Arizona State University, Tempe

1966 California State University, Hayward


Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Franklin House Collection, San Francisco, CA

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY

Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN

Kunsthaus Darmstadt, Germany

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Neue Galerie Stadt Aachen, Germany

The Oakland Museum, CA

The Rose Art Museum, Bandeis University, Waltham, MA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Seattle Art Museum, WA

The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY


1986 National Endowment for the Visual Artists Fellowship Grant

1986 United States/France Exchange Fellowship

*For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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About  Mel Ramos

Born:  1935 - Sacramento, California
Known for:  super flashy nude, pop icon painting

Essays referring to
Mel Ramos

Painters of Nudes