Valkyrie of the Sea

Valkyrie of the Sea
Xavier Tizoc Martinez, ca. 1915
color monotype, 19.8 x 19.8 cm
(7 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.), Smithsonian American Art Museum

Martinez Biography

Adopting a restricted palette of ochers, greens, grays, and browns, highlighted with a dab of bright color, Xavier Martinez abstracted and flattened his figures, often creating a decorative composition of rhythmic forms and patterns against an atmospheric background. It is not known whether he spent time at the American Art Association in Paris or began making monotypes while there, but by 1912 he seems to have completed a fairly significant body of work in the medium. His monotypes were done on a variety of surfaces, including copper, zinc, silver, wood, lithographic stone, and porcelain.

Martinez exhibited several monotypes at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and received an honorable mention for his evocative image titled Valkyrie of the Sea. In each of the three versions of this subject, a nude female (portrayed by his wife, Elsie Martinez), with hair streaming, sits astride a large fish swimming in gray-green water. Although Martinez was one of the founders of the California Society of Artists, an organization formed in 1902 to protest conservative views of the San Francisco Art Association, it is clear that elements of nineteenth-century Romanticism and Symbolism survived in his work despite the influence of the more advanced art he had seen in Paris.

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