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Xavier Timoteo Orozco Martinez - painter


Mexican by birth, with a mixture of Spanish and Indian blood, Xavier Martinez showed an aptitude for drawing as a child. His father's cousin, a sign painter, taught young Martinez the techniques of fresco painting and how to grind and mix both oil paints and watercolors.

Xavier's father was sent to San Francisco by the Mexican government in 1893 on a diplomacy assignment, giving his son the opportunity to study at the California School of Design. In 1897 Xavier went to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, studied under Whistler, and spent a good deal of time living the bohemian life in turn-of-the-century Paris.

In 1900 he received an honorable mention at the Paris International Exposition. Martinez returned to San Francisco on 1901 where he opened a studio on Montgomery Street. This location soon became a center for the Bohemian crowd in San Francisco. His San Francisco studio became such a hub-bub of social activity, that he retreated to the Oakland hills where he established a quiet studio.

On weekends, his city friends came across the bay for happy parties of pasta and wine. Xavier dressed in Left Bank (Paris Bohemian) clothing - corduroy suits, silk cravats - wore his hair stylishly long, and became the areas link to the Parisian bohemian way of life that was sought after and romanticized in California at the turn of the century.

The 1906 earthquake destroyed his San Francisco studio. In 1908 he joined the staff of the California School of Arts and Crafts in the East Bay, a position that he retained until 1942. Xavier lived 1869-1943.

Xavier Martinez was perhaps one of the most interesting figures in the art scene of San Francisco during the first decades of the 20th century. His works were remarkable for their light and their suggestions of light, and he seemed to capture the charm of a scene on beautiful simplicity. Most of Martinez' work can be described as tonalist, having a low-key, limited palette and blurred form.