top of page


Emilia Ortiz was not only a great painter but one of few women caricaturists in Mexico.  She was born in Tepic, Nayarit, on February 10, 1917 and died there November 24th, 2012. She created a collection of over 4000 works, which include paintings, drawings, cartoons, sketches, cookbooks, diaries and a photographic archive of a broad artistic, aesthetic and thematic variety reflecting historic changes that took place in Mexico and the wider world between the 1930s and 2012.

The artistic career of Emilia Ortiz began in 1933 at age 16, when she published in the daily El Nacional five of her cartoons caricaturing several Nayarit politicians and businessman, entitled “A humorous work of subtle irony by a young woman of intelligence and beauty” (Delgado, 2005).


Her father upon noting his daughter’s skill enrolled her in painting classes first in the capital, Tepic, and then in Guadalajara where she took further classes with Jose Vizcarra, who convinced her to draw portraits of Indians and mestizos, themes that would continue into her first paintings.

In 1939, Emilia and her sister Estela traveled to Mexico City to continue studying at the Academy of San Carlos with the teachers Manuel Rodriquez Lozano and Luis Ortiz Monasterio, both renowned artists of the 20th century.  With the Academy and the close friendship with Rodriquez Lozano, Emilia’s career took off- showing work in salons and important museum shows in Mexico City, such as the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Casa del Arquitecto.  

And yet, being a woman from a conservative family at the end of the 19th century, and born in the provinces of the Republic, experiencing Mexico City and engaging with the modernist and global styles would have mixed influences on her life’s work.  Indeed, she would be a lifelong proponent of a regional Nayarit style of expression, even as her paintings also stood out for their various styles expressive of so many of the emerging schools of artistic expression, as noted by many critics, historians and journalists who included her life and work in their surveys of Mexican art [1].


According to Nayarit art historian Cesar Delgado Martinez (2005), among the more important influences on Emilia are: 


Diego Rivera for the use of color and the undulating, sinuous forms.


David Alfaro Siqueiros for the explosive nature of the work.


Jose Clemente Orozco for the expressive humanism.


Manuel R. Lozano for his blue-grey palette and the solitary spaces.


In 1993, the Museo Emilia Ortiz was opened in her honor, offering several fine arts workshops and active support in bringing participating artists increased attention through individual and group exhibitions.  In 2008 the museum closed its doors in the smaller, classic building in order to move into the modernized Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Emilia Ortiz which opened to the public in 2010.  Since the death of Emilia Ortiz en 2012, the career and works of the painter have created a clear direction forward for Nayarit as a pioneer of modern art and an inspiration for regional artists to break free from the academic rules of classical training into new forms of artistic expression.  It’s important to mention that even as throughout her long career Emilia created a most singular legacy, it is also one filled with the spirit of Nayarit and all its inhabitants.  Selected works of Emilia Ortiz are regularly shown in creative tandem with the various thematic exhibitions scheduled in the Museum.


[1]  Beyond various mentions in periodicals, several researchers have written further on her life and work.  Most significantly, Elisa Barragan produced an intensive study of the artist and her work in 1995.  Including texts reproduced from a lifetime of exhibitions and critical writings on her work, she produced the major publication on the artist entitled Emilia Ortiz, Life and Works of a Passionate Painter.  In 2001, Nayarit artist Juan Lamas wrote a critical essay Emilia Ortiz, on the profound influence of her work on younger Nayarit artists who have followed her since, especially her introduction of modern art into the region.  Four years later, in 2005, Cesar Delgado Martinez completed the biographical narrative of the artist’s life, which included interviews and stories by the artist in a book entitled Emilia Ortiz, Genio y Figura.




Delgado Martinez, C. (2005).  Emilia Ortiz, genio y figure.  Tepic, Nayarit : Editores, comunicación optima.

Gutierrez, Ortiz, Gabi (2017), Entrevista a hija de la pintora, Tepic, Nayarit.


Fernanda Gabriela Castellanos Gutiérrez

January 2019


Translation: Mark Hollander 

bottom of page