Jean Charlot

Pintao, 1924

Oleo / tela
37.5 x 30 cm

In the 1920s, Jean Charlot created several paintings and sketches of his close friends, including Siqueiros, Orozco, Anita Brenner, Edward Weston and Tina Modotti. His June 1924 portrait of sculptor Manuel Martínez Pintao is equally direct, with little emphasis on the background. The image approaches caricature, showing a middle-aged man with an exaggerated chin, quirky mustache, and chagrined expression. He wears a checked tie and white shirt under a tweed jacket with leather-covered shoulders. In two related works from 1927, a sketch and a full-length portrait of the sculptor seated with his arms and legs crossed, Martínez Pintao sports a curiously-shaped floppy cap, and seems older and more worried. These images of Martínez Pintao testify to a close friendship; Charlot wrote admiringly of the former’s work in an article published in El Democrata in 1923. According to a brief article in the first issue of the magazine Forma (October 1926), Martínez Pintao was a Galician "gambusino" who emigrated to Mexico in the late 19th century. "In 1922, by a fortunate accident, he carved wood for the first time and since then, he continues to do it, without considering himself an artist." Formally, Martínez Pintao’s work relates to the 17th century choir stalls from the former church of San Agustín, reinstalled in the National Preparatory School. His reliefs thus belong more to the Spanish colonial revival than to indigenous folk traditions, or even to the direct carvings done in Mexico City’s Escuela de Escultura y Talla Directa after 1927. His known carvings from the 1920s, like The Holy Infant Jesus [El Santo Niño Jesús] and Prayer in the Garden [La oración en el huerto], emphasize Christian themes, testimony to the artist’s spirituality, something that the deeply Catholic Charlot must have appreciated.

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

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Francisco Díaz de León Fund