Maria is deservedly considered the “Potter of San Ildefonso” because of her long and illustrious career and her part in creating the blackon black pottery that made her famous. Her polishing technique created the first “gun metal” finish and her legacy is etched in clay.
Not much is said about Julian, her husband, who was also key in created the beautiful pottery that he signed with his wife. He worked with anthropologist Edgar Lee Hewett researching traditional designs. He later modified these designs to create unique patterns that he used to paint the mat black finish designs on Maria’s pottery.
He died in 1943 at the young age of 46.
Many people do not realize that he was also an easel painter and created murals. His work decorated the former Santa Fe Indian School and buildings at Mesa Verde National Park.
Julian worked with other painters who called themselves the San Ildefonso Self-Taught Group. These included Alfonso Roybal, Tonita Pena, Abel Sanchez and others.
His paintings were primarily simple watercolors and colored pencil drawings. His subjects varied from abstract designs to Pueblo rituals to Western figures against a blank background.
Julian Martinez’s paintings are found in over 30 of the most important museum collections in the country.
We are happy to share an early painting, probably completed close to 1920 when he began doing easel art. It is a simple painting of a Pueblo man, wrapped in a blanket, riding a horse. It is in its original frame and is a real treasure!