Ramón Cano Manilla

Vacas y paisaje, 1923

Oleo / tela
61 x 75 cm

Ramón Cano Manilla was one of several Mexican artists from working class backgrounds who achieved fame in the 1920s: critic Rafael Vera de Córdoba, writing in El Universal (1 November 1922), highlighted "el espíritu sano y primitivo que palpitaba en sus pinturas". But Cano was hardly a "primitive": after arriving in Mexico City from Veracruz in 1920, he had enrolled briefly in the Academy of San Carlos before moved on to the more progressive Open Air Schools in Coyoacán and Chimalistac, where his teachers included Leopoldo Méndez and Fermín Revueltas. Thus, while Cano Manilla’s achievements seemed to confirm the "innate" aesthetic talents of the Mexican character for his urban critics, his sophisticated training reminds us that his talents, on the contrary, were carefully learned. Cano Manilla is best known for an extraordinary series of 54 paintings from around 1930, now in the Museo Nacional de Arte, that depict rituals and celebrations he observed in rural Puebla as a child living at the turn-of-the-century. The most famous of these, like The Balloon [El globo] and Oaxacan Indian [India oaxaqueña], as well as Siesta (1926; Blaisten collection), are complex and densely textured images of rural life, with an almost Flemish attention to detail. Cows in a Landscape, from 1923, is an earlier and simpler work by the artist. Three somewhat unconvincing cows graze and rest by a stream or pond in a richly colored landscape of rolling green and blue hills. Over half the canvas is given over to the bright cloud-filled sky, rendered like the land in a thick impasto reminiscent of post-impressionist brushwork. Probably a student exercise, the painting seems most indebted to the contemporary work of Joaquin Clausell, not least because of its cool palette.

Vide. James Oles, Arte moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005.

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