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Jesús Reyes Ferreira, born José de Jesús Benjamín Buenaventura de los Reyes y Ferreira and also known as Chucho Reyes, was a self-taught artist and antiques/art collector and vendor.
Reyes Ferreira began painting on crêpe paper*, a delicate material not meant to last, as a way of decorating paper meant to wrap sales from his antiques/art store. The decorated paper became popular enough to be sold on its own. Although he began this activity in Guadalajara, he did not produce the bulk of his work until after he moved to Mexico City when he was 58 years old. Here he continued collecting and selling objects such as colonial art and Mexican handcrafts and folk art, being one of the early exponents for the appreciation of these objects. He also spent several hours a day painting. His work was first exhibited in 1950 with his first individual exhibition in 1967 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes after a half century of painting. As a self-taught painter, his works are relatively simple and often are dismissed as folk painting but they were and his aesthetics were praised by famous artists and architects at the time.
Reyes Ferreira was born on October 17, 1880 in Guadalajara to Buenaventura Reyes y Zavala and Felipa Ferreira Flores. His childhood home was on Morelos Street in Guadalajara, a typical house for the area, with a central courtyard, rooms connected by halls lined with railings and flowerpots. Today the structure is the Museo de los Títeres or Marionette Museum. His family was cultured and his father was eccentric and very strict. He was initially home schooled by his father, but completed primary school at the Liceo de Varones, where he took art classes.
After primary school he worked at a number of jobs. While working at a chocolate factory, he noticed the interesting patterns that the grease made on the wrapping paper. He had his first contact with art in 1894, becoming an apprentice at the Loreto y Ancira lithography* and print shop. He then worked an art supply store called Casa Pellandina in Guadalajara. He started as general help but then moved onto creating displays and decorating the store’s windows. From there he began to become known for the decoration of event spaces such as rental halls and churches for events such as weddings and baptisms for wealthy families. Interested in handcrafts and folk art, he frequently visited the El Rincon del Diablo fireworks workshop to watch them paint the Judas figures and fireworks frames. He also worked in silver shops learning how to cast the metal. He designed a number of pieces, some of which remain in the family.
He met Amelia Rivas while working at the art store. He began to court her but she died shortly thereafter of tuberculosis .
His father died in 1911, leaving him the house and a collection of art, handcrafts and antiques, prompting interest in these areas. The house became something a haven for artists and other bohemian* types as he used part of it to sell antiques and art. Another section became something of a museum. He became well known not only to Guadalajara artists but also a number of artists from Mexico City. Reyes was considered eccentric. When Reyes Ferreira bought a book, he always bought two copies, one to cut up to create a new design and the other to keep intact. He began drawing and painting on the crepe paper used to wrap purchases from his store, these drawings became popular and soon clients were buying the paper for its own sake.
In 1938, he was denounced for unusual “sexual preferences.” He was arrested along with a number of youths from upper society. He was beaten by police and forced to wear a sign saying that he was a corrupter of youth. The incident forced Reyes Ferreira to sell his childhood home and move to Mexico City.
He was helped in his move by artist friends from the capital including André Breton and Frida Kahlo . He moved into an old colonial house on Milan Street in Colonia Juárez, where he lived with his two sisters, Antonia and Maria. He decorated it unusually, with lighted cubes, various colors and niches for religious objects. The courtyard was used as a studio for painting and he continued to sell antiques and art. He also continued to have his house open to writers, intellectuals and artists such as Carlos Pellicer, Salvador Novo, Juan Soriano, Raúl Anguiano, Jorge Enciso, Diego Rivera as well as architects such as Luis Barragán and Matias Goeritz .
When he was 87 years old he traveled for the first time outside Mexico, heading to Paris, Rome, Madrid. A year later he went to the Middle East. He also visited New York.
He died on August 6, 1977 in Mexico City.
"Jesus Reyes Ferreira", Wikipedia, //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jes%C3%BAs_Reyes_Ferreira (Accessed 8/25/2013)
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