My Great Uncle Pete was a pretty famous Western painter and rodeo cowboy in the earlier part of the 20th Century, and his ever-present paintings provided some of the mightiest and most memorable images of my childhood. He worked out of Tuscon, Arizona and legend has it that he and the uber-butch actor, Lee Marvin, used to regularly get pissed together in The Tap Room bar at the now historic Hotel Congress. Apparently, several of his paintings still hang there. Despite the official word, knowing my family, they were most likely traded as payment for bar tabs run amok. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
From their website:
The Tap Room has been popular with the locals since its inception in 1919. In the late 1930s and 1940s, the Tap Room was given its touch of western class. Pete Martinez was a famous artist and rodeo cowboy. While he roped & bucked with the best in New York, his artwork was featured in art exhibits, including the lobby of the Garden & Woolworth Galleries. He retired in Tucson with his wife. Though it’s been suggested that Martinez painted pictures to pay for his keep here at Hotel Congress, they are just rumors. His paintings grace the walls of the Tap Room for one simple reason — it was his watering hole. He enjoyed the company and the drinks so much that he bestowed some of his art to show his appreciation. Many celebrities and regular folk collect Pete Martinez’ work — in fact, we are regularly asked to sell his work to collectors. We always smile and say “No”. We want his work to remain where he felt at home.
Yeah, right. Way to clean up the filth for the unwashed masses. Even though Uncle Pete was certainly one of the more savory characters in my family’s tawdry, madcap history, he was no saint, either. He is, after all, related to me.
A few years ago, I was casually thumbing through a ragged copy of Architectural Digest magazine in my Rheumatologist’s waiting room and was pleased and surprised to find that apparently one of the most avid and enthusiastic collectors of his work is the actress Diane Keaton. She has several paintings of his hanging in her exquisitely restored Spanish Colonial home in Los Angeles, including a rather uncharacteristically large piece of his that serves as the aesthetic centerpiece of the living room.
When I saw the pictures, it made me smile to discover that one of my delightfully scandalous clan actually excelled at something other than crimes committed or time served.
Hurray for Great Uncle Pete.
Dear Muffy Bolding, I am an art historian dedicated to promoting a greater awareness of the many artists that contributed to pulp magazines and I have a website with over two profiles of pulp artists, and of course there is a webpage devoted to Pete Martinez. Can you please review the basic outline to suggest any improvements? Here is a link… http://www.pulpartists.com/Martinez.html
By the way, I am curious about one other artist ROY HARRISON whose career was an exact duplicate of Pete Martinez and wonder if you can tell me anyhting about him or if perhaps he was just a pen name for Pete Martinez? Thank you. — David Saunders
gosh, what a LOVELY surprise to wake up to on a monday morning, mr. saunders! first of all, thank you SO much for all of the work you have done researching, documenting, and chronicling the life of my great uncle, pete martinez — and what a fine job you have done, sir. as for the veracity of the profile you’ve compiled, we would probably both best be served by having my mother, alexandria, give it a read, as she would know FAR better than i. let me send it to her and i will get back to you. also, i will ask her about the possibility that uncle pete might have used the pen name “roy harrison” — which would be a totally delightfully surprise!
all my best —
Thank you for helping to suggest any improvements to the brief biographical profile I have posted on Pete Martinez. All the info is derived from archival research of documents available from my public library, like old newpsaper articles and census records. His life is a real inspiration and a perfect reflection of his sensitive and observant work. Nevertheless, the most heartfelt account of any person is only known to family oral history, so I would be grateful for your suggested improvements. I am not sure about the etiquette of communicating via this blog or how to send you images of some fun old documents from the life of Pete Martinez, but I believe you have my direct email address, which is also available via the website I made to provide a greater awareness of all illustrators who worked in the pulp magazine industry. Thanks again. I really look forward to hearing from you and any other family members. — David Saunders
mr. saunders — please feel free to contact me ANYTIME at my email address: muffybolding at gmail dot com. i would LOVE to see anything and everything you might have found about my great uncle pete! thank you! xoxo
Hello, Muffy! I really enjoyed reading this, and learing about your great uncle. Recenlty My grandma was going through old boxes and found an ink sketch of his that belonged to her parents. she said she isn’t sure when they got it, but she thought her dad bought it somewhere in New York or New Jersey. She said she just remembers them always having it. If they bought it before she was even born, it would have been early 1920s, I’d guess. I’m working on doing more research and also finding how much it could possibly sell for if she were interested in selling. I need to look at the picture more and see if there is a title and date.
Make that 1930’s. I really don’t know though!