Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Santiago Martínez Delgado

Colombian Evolution, 1933, Santiago Martinez Delgado 
Santiago Martinez Delgado, 1940s
From what I've seen in studying the lives of great artist, now and then, typically they spend from three to ten years in academic study preparing their minds for the arduous tasks involved in the creation of their art. Now, add to that another eighteen years of general studies associated with growing to adulthood and you have twenty to thirty years. That's often fully one-fourth to one-third of the artist's life simply preparing to become an artist. In the case of a couple artist, which come to mind, that time equates to as much as half the artists' life. Raphael Sanzio da Urbino was born in 1483. He is said to have been fully trained by the time he turned eighteen. He died in 1520 at the age of thirty-seven. Nearly five-hundred years later (1906), there was born in Bogota, Colombia, a similar child prodigy, Santiago Martinez Delgado (Delgado being the mother's family name). He won his first major award in 1933 at the age of twenty-seven. He died in 1954 at the age of forty-eight. Raphael spent nearly half his life in training, Martinez well over half his life preparing to become an artist.
Bolivar and his Army, 1948, watercolor, Santiago Martinez
Interlude, 1941, Santiago Martinez,
the artist's mother and wife.
Actually, the two artists had more than that in common. Both had troubled childhoods, both were printmakers, both were painters, both painted murals, and both painted major historic figures from the past. Raphael painted Jesus, Mary, and (on rare occasions) Joseph. Martinez painted Simon Bolivar. Not to equate the two, but even Jesus and Bolivar had some things in common (but that's another matter). Santiago Martinez, grew up in during troubled political times in Colombia, his father being a Conservative Party leader implicated in a coup d'état and subsequently expelled from the country. (Raphael was orphaned at the age of eleven). Martinez began studying art at the age of eleven at the Bogota Fine Arts Academy. In 1926 he moved to Chicago to continue his studies at the Art Institute (he would have been twenty at the time). His first real art job was in making stained glass windows for no less than the famed Chicago architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, with whom he studied for another three years. In leaving Chicago to return home, Martinez walked away with the Logan Medal for the Arts awarded him for his mural, Colombian Evolution (top) at the 1933 Chicago International World Fair.
Rise of Jesus on the Cross, Cucuta Cathedral1945, Santiago Martinez
Don Quixote, 1947, Santiago Martinez
Back in Colombia, Martinez became the proverbial "big fish in a small pond" winning numerous private and government commissions. The Rockefeller family became one of his patrons. Painting in the popular Art Deco style of the time, Martinez won nearly as many awards as he did commissions. In 1945, he won the commission for the Cúcuta Cathedral stations (below), while simultaneously serving on various international art commissions, completing a series of prints on the life of the South American revolutionary leader, Simon Bolivar, becoming Colombia's leading art historian, and in his spare time, starting his own advertising agency in Bogota. He completed over one-hundred paintings in his lifetime (Raphael completed 102). Martinez's life suddenly came to an end on January 12, 1954 (from overworked, perhaps?) Raphael was also very much a workaholic, his death coming as a shock to the art world of Rome. He died on his birthday, April 6, 1520 (Good Friday).
Jesus Meets Mary, Cucuta Cathedral1945, Santiago Martinez
Illustration for the cover of Life
magazine,1940, Santiago Martinez.
Beyond all this, there is yet another interesting connection between the two artists. In 1938, Mrs. Maria Mendoza, a friend of Santiago Martinez, invited him to her home where she showed him a painting of the holy family, which she believed to be by the Colombian artist, Gregorio Vazquez Arce y Ceballos. Martinez, the leading art history expert in Colombia, took one look at the badly damaged painting and immediately informed her otherwise. He identified it as either a painting by Raphael Sanzio da Urbino, or one of his students. The painting, as was common at the time of its creation (before 1508) was painted on a wooden panel made of two blanks, glued together then covered with plaster (gesso). The two boards had separated right down through the middle of the Madonna's face. The two pieces had been bound together with wire. Of course recognizing a Raphael and proving a Raphael are two vastly different endeavors. Martinez took the painting, had it x-rayed, and showed it to a number of his Colombian colleagues, many of whom believed it to be a copy of a similar Raphael in Madrid's El Escorial. And in any case, if it was an authentic Raphael Madonna and Child (one of dozens), how the hell did it end up in Colombia? Fortunately, Mrs. Mendoza managed to answer that by supplying the all-important historic documentation (provenance). But for a final judgment, Martinez was forced to cart the fragile work off to the Met in New York where several Raphael experts looked it over, nodded in agreement, and named the work Raphael's Madonna of Bogota. From there, Martinez took his million-dollar discovery to Chicago where he turned it over to his old friends at the Art Institute to be restored. The results can be seen below. Where is the work now? No one seems to know; but the consensus seems to be that it's locked away in a bank vault for safe keeping...somewhere.
The Madonna of Bogota, before 1508, Raphael Sanzio da Urbino.
The painting as discovered is at left, the restored work at right.
(Those guys in Chicago really know their stuff.)

No comments:

Post a Comment