Jun 302016
 

Texan artist Tully Judson Petty Jr. lived in Ajijic for almost a year from mid-1967 into 1968. While living in Ajijic, he was working feverishly on completing 50 oils, watercolors, drawings and woodcuts for a one-man show at the exclusive DuBose Gallery in Houston scheduled for April 1968.

Petty was born on 13 Aug 1928 in Wise County, Texas, lived almost all his life in Texas, and died on 24 Dec 1992. Petty was educated at Texas Christian University, attended San Miguel de Allende School of Fine Arts in 1948, and graduated from New York’s Cooper Union.

During his freshman year studying art at Texas Christian University, Petty decorated yellow shirts, shorts, ties and scarves with lively outdoor scenes such as sharpshooting cowboys and men shooting pheasants. His designs apparently enjoyed some commercial success: “A local department store has placed orders for some of his scarves, replete with top hat, lamp post and champagne glass designs. (The Lafayette, Easton, Pa, 20 Dec 1946)

In 1948, Petty studied at the School of Fine Arts in San Miguel de Allende, and in 1950 married his childhood sweetheart Matilda Nail Peeler (1928-2009). The couple lived for a short time in New York, where Petty attended the Cooper Union and his wife worked as a model.

For most of the 1950s, Petty and his wife lived in Fort Worth, Texas. Petty ran his own advertising and public relations company, while Matilda was manager of the Galleria Department of the Neiman Marcus store (and later head buyer in couture fashions at Meacham’s). The couple had three children, but later divorced.

Petty retired from advertising at about the time he married Lynne Kendall in Parker, Texas, in May 1966. Shortly afterwards, the newly-weds moved to Mexico, where they lived for two months in Puerto Vallarta and six months in Guadalajara, before settling in Ajijic in June 1967.

Petty’s artwork was included in a group show of Texas Contemporary Artists which opened 11 October 1952 at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas. His solo shows included the Latch String Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas, in September 1967, and the DuBose Gallery in Houston in April 1968.

At Lakeside, examples of Petty’s woodcuts were shown in Guadalajara in June 1968 at La Galería (Ocho de Julio #878) for their First Annual Graphic Arts Show of prints, drawings and wood cuts. Other prominent Lakeside artists whose work was included in that show were Allyn Hunt, Tom Brudenell, John Frost, Paul Hachten, Peter HufEunice (Hunt) Huf and John Kenneth Peterson.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

 

May 192016
 

Emil Armin (1883-1971) was born in Rădăuţi (Radautz), Romania, in 1883 and died in Chicago in 1971. He is assumed to have visited Lake Chapala at some point in the mid-1950s since one of his paintings, entitled “Morning Lake Chapala”, was hung in a no-jury exhibition of Chicago Artists in Chicago in February 1957. That exhibition was sponsored by The Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Art Organizations in cooperation with the Honorable Richard J. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago.

Emil Armin. Self-portrait (1928), woodcut

Emil Armin. Self-portrait (1928), woodcut

Armin was raised in a Jewish family but lost both his parents at the age of 10 and was brought up by older siblings. As a teenager, he worked in restaurants to support himself, and took evening art classes, as well as learning English and French.

In 1905, when Armin was 21, he emigrated to the U.S. to join his brother in Chicago. Two years later he enrolled in night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, but his precarious financial situation led to him having to take a break from classes in 1911.

In 1913 Armin made several visits to the famed Armory Show which brought avant-garde artists such as Matisse and Cezanne to the attention of the American public. Both Armin and Emil Holzhauer (another painter of European origin who would later paint Lake Chapala) were inspired by the sharp contrast between these works and their own prior art training. In Armin’s case, an exhibition of works by Russian artist Boris Anisfeld at the Art Institute suggested an artistic avenue worth exploring.

Armin started taking formal classes at the Chicago Art Institute again in 1918, and after studying with Randall Davey and American realist painter George Bellows, finally graduated from the Institute in 1920.

He quickly became an active member of Chicago’s modernist art community, part of the 57th Street Art Colony in Hyde Park, and began to exhibit with the Chicago Society of Artists.

Emil Armin. Sunburnt Dunes (1942)

Emil Armin. Sunburnt Dunes (1942)

From 1922 to 1949, Armin was a regular exhibitor at the Annual Shows of the Chicago Art Institute, but also joined the No-Jury Society of Artists, established in 1922. The Society had been formed, according to the catalog of its first show, because “standards of the past… are chains by which the free development of art is hampered.” The Society considered that technique was less important than “honest, spiritual content”.

Armin, who exhibited in all of their shows, served for a time as the Society’s president. Armin also taught for a time (1925-26) at Chicago’s Hull House, a settlement house set up to receive recently-arrived European immigrants.

In 1926, Armin was a founder member of Around the Palette (renamed, in 1940, the American Jewish Art Club, and later the American Jewish Artists Club), and exhibited with them regularly throughout his life. His work was also part of the group exhibitions of the Renaissance Society in Chicago in 1931, 1941, 1946 and 1962.

Emil Armin. Pelicans and Fisherman (1966)

Emil Armin. Pelicans and Fisherman (1966)

In the 1930s, Armin was an active participant in both the Public Works of Art Project and in its successor the Works Progress Administration.

Armin’s artwork included cartoons, woodblocks, paintings and sculptures. Though Armin also spent some time in New Mexico (1928), Maine, Mexico and elsewhere, Chicago was his home throughout his adult life. Armin’s subject matter varied, but he is particularly well-known for depictions of urban life in Chicago, as well as biblical themes and Jewish rituals.

Armin married Hilda Rose Diamond in 1945. Following his death in 1971, she worked with the Illinois State Museum to chronicle Armin’s career as an artist, resulting in a retrospective exhibition featuring more than seventy of his works.

Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please email us or use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts.

Nov 132014
 

Han(n)s Otto Butterlin (or Otto Butterlin as he was usually known, at least in Mexico) was born in Cologne, Germany, 26 Dec 1900 and became an abstract and impressionist painter of some renown.

He was the oldest of the three Butterlin brothers. Otto moved with his middle brother Frederick and their parents (Johannes and Amelie) from Germany to Mexico in 1907. (Otto’s youngest brother Ernesto would be born a decade later in Guadalajara.)

According to his entry in the 1946 edition of Who’s Who in Latin America, Part I – Mexico, Otto was decorated by the German government for service performed during the first world war.

Immediately after the war, Otto studied at the Universities of Bonn, Marburg, and Munich (1918-20) and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1920-22).

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

During his time at the latter institution, he wrote and illustrated a booklet Ixtaccihuatl. Der Azteken Legende vom Berge der schlafenden Frau (Ixtaccihuatl: The Aztec Legend of the Mountain of the Sleeping Woman), published in Berlin in 1921 as a limited edition of 250 copies by Verlag A. R. Meyer. The 14-page “lyrical leaflet” included five original woodcuts (see images).

U.S. immigration records show that Otto Butterlin (5’9″ tall with blond hair and blue eyes) was resident there between August 1924 and October 1929, though he probably made trips to visit family in Mexico during that time.

On 7 June 1929, Otto married Margaret Elaine (Anglin) Dodge (1906-1982) in Alameda, California. Otto’s younger brother Frederick was a witness at the ceremony. It was Otto’s first marriage, and Margaret’s second. Margaret (“Peggy”), aged 23 when she married Otto and described as the “operator of a beauty parlor”, had previously been married to Latham L Dodge (1904-1955). From that marriage, she had a daughter Jacqueline Dodge (born 22 March 1925).

Otto made his living as a chemist and supervisor of operations in various industrial plants for at least 15 years. At the time of the 1930 Mexican census (held on 15 May), he and his wife were living in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where he was working at the sugar refinery.

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

The following year, in 1931 Margaret gave birth to their daughter Rita Elaine in Los Mochis. Rita went on to marry four times. Her first marriage (1951-58) was to one of Otto’s friends – textile artist and silkscreen innovator Jim Tillett (1913-1996) – and her second (1959-1963) to Chilean film star Octavio Señoret Guevara (1924-1990). She was subsequently briefly married (1967-69) to Haskel Bratter, before falling in love with and marrying (1971-his passing) Howard Perkins Taylor (1916-1993).

While Rita was still an infant, Otto decided to formalize his permanent right to residence in Mexico and became a naturalized Mexican citizen in October 1935. Immigration records show that he continued to visit the U.S. several times a year.

It appears to be at about this time that Otto decided to spend more time on his art.

Following the economic calamities of the early 1930s, the U.S. had initiated its Works Progress Administration (WPA; renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration). This was an ambitious “New Deal” agency and employed millions of unemployed, and mostly unskilled, people to carry out public works projects. Hundreds of artists found support from WPA to complete paintings, sculptures and murals, many of which were designed for specific public spaces. A number of these artists, including Otto Butterlin, either had or came to have close connections to the Lake Chapala area.

In Otto’s case, he received the support of WPA to paint “New York City Panorama” (1937). The painting is described by art critic Robert Pincus, in a review of a 2006 exhibition called “Art of the WPA Era From Collections of the San Diego Region”, as a “nightmarish swirl of faces and electric signs”:

“The steep downturn of the American economy turned city streets into huddled masses of people who gathered in soup lines. Many people felt that they were at the mercy of forces beyond their control – forces of a modern, bureaucratic state whose emblem was the city.

This sort of alienation assumed different guises. There is the nightmarish swirl of faces and electric signs in Otto Butterlin’s “New York City Panorama” (1937), more expressionist metaphor than visual document. (He was part of the contingency of artists from Mexico who worked in the United States that included Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco in New York and Alfredo Ramos Martinez in San Diego.)”

By the early 1940s, Otto Butterlin was based in Mexico City and working as an executive in the Bayer chemical company, a position which enabled him to supply several well-known artists of the time, such as A. Amador Lugo (who was epileptic) with needed medications, at a time when they were very hard to obtain.

During this period, Butterlin taught art with, or to, numerous well-known Mexican artists, including Diego Rivera, Ricardo Martinez, José Chávez Morado, Ricardo Martínez and Gunther Gerzso.

In 1941, Otto introduced his friend Gunther Gerzso (a famous set designer who later became a fine painter) to gallery owner Inés Amor. A few years later, in May 1950, Amor arranged Gerzso’s first solo exhibition in the Galería de Arte Mexicano in Mexico City. Gerzso became a famous artist. According to Octavio Paz, Gerzso was one of Latin America’s greatest ever painters, on account of the fact that he, Carlos Mérida and Rufino Tamayo had opposed the “ideologist aesthetic movement into which muralism had degenerated.”

Otto Butterlin had been accorded the honor of his own one-man show at the Galería de Arte Mexicano several years earlier. The exhibition, which lasted from November 1942 to February 1943 featured 32 of Otto’s works, probably including “The Funeral” (now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art). Otto’s paintings were also exhibited at various locations elsewhere in Mexico, as well as in Germany, Holland, and the U.S.

Butterlin-Hanns-Otto-The-Funeral-ca1942

Hanns Otto Butterlin. The Funeral (ca 1942)

In September 1945, Otto and his wife Peggy, together with daughter Rita, relocated to live in Ajijic. In a 1945 article, Neill James, who had arrived in Ajijic a couple of years earlier, described Otto Butterlin as a “well known expressionist and abstract painter who owns a huerta in Ajijic where he lives with his wife, Peggy, and daughter, Rita.”

Otto Butterlin: Modern Figure Study. 1949

Otto Butterlin: Modern Figure Study. 1949

His 1946 Who’s Who entry says he was the author of a “book of poems” but this appears to refer to his much earlier booklet Ixtaccihuatl (1921).

The group of artists exhibiting watercolors in May 1954 in “Galería Arturo Pani D.” in Calle Niza in Mexico City includes a Butterlin (probably Otto) alongside such famous contemporary artists as Raúl Anguiano, Fererico Cantú, Leonora Carrington, Carlos Mérida, Roberto Montenegro, Juan Soriano, Rufino Tamayo and Alfredo Zalce.

Both Otto and brother Ernesto Butterlin were among the 28 artists who had a joint exhibition the following month, June 1954, also in Mexico City, at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes’ Salón de la Plástica Mexicana. Other artists whose work was featured on that occasion include Roberto F. Balbuena, Michael Baxte, Leonora Carrinqton, Enrique Climent, José Feher, Elvira Gascón, Gunther Gerzso and Carlos Mérida.

In October 1954, Otto Butterlin requested permission from the Mexican government to be allowed to accept and use, “without losing his Mexican citizenship”, the “Honor and Merit” decoration awarded to him by the Government of the Republic of Haiti.

Otto Butterlin died in Ajijic on 2 April 1956. An article by Kenneth McCaleb in The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (15 February 1968) offers two alternative explanations, saying that “Otto Butterlin either shot himself or – as some said – was killed by his mistress.”

Note (April 2016): We thank the Registro Civil in Chapala which kindly emailed us a copy of the official death certificate of Otto Butterlin.

Partial list of sources:

  • Monica Señoret (Otto Butterlin’s granddaughter), personal communications via email. April 2015.
  • Kenneth McCaleb, “Conversation Piece: How To Be an Art Collector”, The Corpus Christi Caller-Times 15 February 1968.
  • María Cristina Hernández Escobar. “Gunther Gerzso, The Appearance of the Invisible”. Voices of Mexico. UNAM. n.d. [formerly at http://www.revistascisan.unam.mx/Voices/pdfs/5323.pdf]
  • Robert L. Pincus, “WPA captures the soul of a nation”, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 February 2006, page F-1.
  • Robert Hilton (ed). Who’s Who In Latin America A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women Of Latin America. Part I – Mexico. (1946)

As always, we would love to receive any comments, corrections or additional information.

Related posts:

Nov 062014
 

While researching the history of the artists associated with the Lake Chapala region, I came across more and more references to the “two Butterlin brothers”. The problem was that different sources, including otherwise reputable art history sites, gave them quite different first names: Ernesto and Hans? Hans and Frederick? Linares and Otto?

There was very little evidence and it seemed impossible to tell which source was accurate, and why different accounts gave such different names, ages and details. They were usually described as “German”, but it was unclear whether they had been born in Germany or were the sons of German immigrants to Mexico.

Eventually, I compiled enough evidence to prove conclusively that there were not two Butterlin brothers, but three! Two had been born in Germany and were brought by their parents to Mexico. Safely ensconced in Guadalajara, the parents then had a third son, several years younger than his siblings.

The picture was complicated by the fact that two of the brothers used different names at different stages of their life, with the older brother rarely using his first name on his art once he arrived in Mexico, while the youngest brother adopted a surname for much of his artistic career that had no obvious connection to his family name.

Small wonder, then, that confusion reigned about the Butterlin brothers on many art history sites, some of which even failed to identify correctly the country of birth of each of the three brothers.

The three brothers (in order of birth) are:

There are still great gaps in my knowledge of this family, but the picture that finally began to emerge showed that the Butterlins deserved wider recognition as an artistic family of some consequence.

In future posts, I will show how all three Butterlin brothers contributed significantly to the development of the artist colony in the Lake Chapala area, albeit it in rather different ways.

error: Content is protected !!