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Martín Ramírez

The Mexican artist Martín Ramírez (1895 - 1963), is considered by some to be one of the 20th century's preeminent self-taught masters.

After immigrating to the US in 1925, Martín fell victim to the Great Depression. Along with millions of others who were searching for work, he was arrested for vagrancy. Speaking no English, he was soon institutionalized and then diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic, even though he might not have needed psychiatric care.

While in custody as a psychiatric inmate for most of his adult life at DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn, California, Martín managed to produce hundreds of drawings by being resourceful. Many of Ramirez's drawings – done in subdued reds, yellows and blues — were created on sheets of examining-table paper, some of them 18 feet long.

Martín is also said to have saved the oatmeal from his breakfast to make a small pot which he would then bake on a steam radiator. Once the pot hardened, it would be used to mix his paints. Martín created hundreds of works of art sometimes using mashed potatoes, burned matchsticks and his own saliva.

Misfortune did not subdue Martín Ramírez. His indomitable spirit lives on in his art.

Shown: Martín Ramírez - Untitled (Madonna) - 1950s


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