Julian Robles artist
JULIAN ROBLES carries a tradition of the great
Southwest painters as do few other contemporary artists. With mastery and sensitive renderings of indigenous culture, he provides a view into the vanishing frontier; he brings an authentic interpretation of our country’s most colorful native past. There is no updating or modernization in his canvases – they are as vintage and faithful as one could find on a gallery wall of 1910. His treatment of figures and environment conforms to the best work of the founding Southwest impressionist pioneers: Blumenschein, Couse, Sharp, Berninghaus, Ufer, Higgins, Dunton and so many others who shaped that glorious, stylized, mythic America. These legendary artists set a standard rarely met by those who followed.
Julian is my oldest brother, so I naturally come to the subject with a bias – but in viewing his work, one cannot deny his channeling of the Taos ghosts. Highly spiritual in nature, he forms a view of the world that reaches beyond the superficial, and this is exquisitely demonstrated in his pictures. Born in New York City in 1933, his urban beginnings could not portend a lifestyle of rural contentment in the majestic mountains of New Mexico. This setting has been the muse for countless paintings, offering a dramatic backdrop for his romanticized images. In 1968 Julian purchased an 1824 Taos adobe hacienda where he resides today. His studio walls are replete with Western art; it is a sojourn into the past.
As a child, I was in constant awe of the endless creative projects that sprung from Julian’s imagination. He seemed to challenge himself to see what new fantasy could be invented in papier-mâché, wire, plaster, and paint – and always compulsively sketching. The ideas flowed, and his maturity in execution was remarkable. This kind of prolific output and talent comes from an exceptional place in a chosen few. Julian had the gift.
My mother, born in New Jersey, was of Lithuanian descent and was the major force in our household's creativity. My father was Basque, born in San Sebastian, Spain but immigrated to Cuba with my grandparents circa 1910. My parents were married in New York City in 1932. During the War (before I was born) my two older brothers were relocated to Cuba where they spent their formative years on my grandparent’s sugar plantation. Julian and Walter grew up in a tropical paradise that even today I can only envy. I attribute that environment to much of Julian’s proclivities for the exotic depiction of Native Americans.
After the War, my family settled in New Jersey where Julian had easy access to the New York museums, art galleries, and more formal training to refine his skills. He attended Pratt Institute while employed as a graphic artist. In 1953, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was assigned as a technical illustrator for the next five years. While being stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Amarillo, Texas he made painting trips to New Mexico and discovered the art colonies of Santa Fe and Taos. After leaving the service, he settled in Amarillo and established himself as a top-ranking portrait artist. In 1961, wanting to refine his painting technique, he relocated back to New York to study at the Art Student’s League and the National Academy of Art and Design. He also taught painting at the Brooklyn Academy. These were preparatory years that would lead to a final move to Taos in 1969.
The Western landscape was vast and inspiring. The cool silver light that washes over New Mexico’s mountains and deserts creates an Otherworld so unique and utopian. The added attraction of native culture with its colorful pageantry and mystical lore was an irresistible visual subject. Julian is a regular spectator at Indian ceremonials absorbing the drama and memorizing costume regulation. His studio recreations with local models and original artifacts are an authentic restaging of traditional rituals; his paintings are a document of tribal display and daily life among a proud people caught between the past and present.
Julian’s formal training in fine art was with some of the best and most distinguished artist-teachers of the day: Dirk Van Driest of Taos, Robert Philipp, N.A., R.A., and Sidney Dickinson, N.A., of New York City. His solid footing in composition, technique, and color is the strength of his work. His vision penetrates the surface, capturing the inner qualities and depth of the subjects. There is a narrative in even his simple portraits, always giving more than is expected. Floral still-lifes burst with color, light, and fine rendering, often employing spiritual icons reflecting the regional tenets. His landscapes have a dreamlike nostalgia that pays tribute to the Taos masters of one hundred years ago. His lovely and sensual nudes, so alluring, are just short of erotic. As Julian turns in every direction he seems to have perfect control and skill, always hitting the right notes – the greater the challenge, the finer the results.
For me, my brother has been a life-long inspiration for excellence in a craft that is the identity of our family. It is his dedication and hard work, always striving to be the best, that has resulted in so many awards and honors. As I follow his career through the decades, I marvel at the consistency and quality of output. With maturity, he only improves, if that is possible. -- Roger Robles