"Woman Grinding Corn"

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Ricardo Martinez

Today we’re looking at a painting by Ricardo Martinez de Hoyos. Martinez was one of the great painters of the 20th century from Mexico. He has a very unique style – simple but dramatic.

Paint Application

In terms of his paint application – what he would do in almost every painting – was to apply a very thin undercoat to the canvas. On a lot of these paintings, we have a red ground as the undercoat. From there, with very thin layers of paint, he would start building up the surfaces. And as you can see, he would keep his pallet to a minimum.

In this painting he uses a grey-blue, a brown, and a dark grey, which almost turns into a black. But in all these areas, you see the under-paint – which gives the painting a very soft quality, like the paint is almost a stain coming out of the canvas itself.


This painting is particularly beautiful, it’s from the 1950’s, which is probably one of his strongest periods, and one of the periods most valued by the true collectors of his works.


Although it’s a very iconic Mexican image – this wonderful image of the corn grinder – its still a very modernistic painting. A lot of his works are almost sculptural - monumental. A lot of the inspiration for these paintings were taken from the great, large, pre-Colombian sculptures. And when Henry Moore went to Mexico, he was also very inspired by the pre-Columbian sculptures. You see an almost Henry Moore quality to this particular piece in terms of the volume and the line.

We have this beautiful, oval vase to the right, which relates to the oval shape of the woman’s shoulder and side, and to the oval shape of the head – but then this wonderful dramatic pressure of the hands leaning forward, grinding corn – created with sharp, almost harsh lines.

Again, although the image is traditionally a Mexican iconic image, it’s a very beautiful modernistic painting.