March 17, 2013

Portrait of a Painter

Around the time Luis Martinez started painting (late 1800s, early 1900s), Ecuador was still establishing itself as a nation. So his paintings of countrysides could be seen as a way of marking Ecuadorian territory, if only in the public sentiment. He showed Ecuadorians and the rest of the world what Ecuador was (after all, this was during a time when people couldn't just hop a plane or even a bus).

Martinez was a mountain climber, which gave a lot of realism to his art. But his paintings were definitely romantic - you can see a lot of inferences to the presence of God in his work. The sky in many of his paintings take up a third to half of the piece. And there's a lot of golden, heavenly light in there, too.
Another thing he was really good at was working in a play of light and shadow to create depth and add distance to his pieces.
He saw his work as a scientific document - he was not just painting a pretty picture, but more importantly, showing everyone what these mostly unseen landscapes looked like.

El Altar in the early 1900s
View of El Altar in 2008, taken by Ivan Layedra P
Even in modern times, his paintings have this aspect of a scientific document to them. His work gives us a view into this part of the world before industries and people began polluting and causing great changes in the atmosphere. He painted mountains with snow-capped peaks. When we see them today, much of the snow has disappeared. Probably in a few decades, these mountains will be completely bare of snow, leading to huge consequences for the people who live in Ecuador and the rest of South America.

I think his work really conveys the feeling that one gets in the solitude of nature and in the presence of something greater than ourselves. These mountains and landscapes will outlast all of us.

[Paintings from the book "Luis A. Martinez" by Fernando Jurado Noboa]

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