Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Salinas, Porfirio
(1910-1973)
Collection: American Collection
Specialties: Paintings, Prints
View Artwork
The Texas bluebonnet is probably the only flower that has been brought
into national awareness largely due to the work of a single artist -
Porfirio Salinas (1910-1973). As Salinas said later in life, "First,
before you can learn to paint, you must learn how to see." His work has
taught people around the world how to see the beauty of the Texas
landscapes in which he spent his life. Born on a stock farm in Bastrop,
Texas on November 6, 1910, Porfirio Salinas, Jr. wouldn't have seemed
destined for a career in art. But his abilities surfaced early; when he
began school in San Antonio, to which his family had moved soon after his
birth, his teachers immediately took note of his talent, his first grade
teacher declaring that he was already an artist. By the fifth grade, he
was selling small paintings to the supportive school staff. Nonetheless,
Salinas never acquired a formal art education, but was quick to learn from
observation and practice. At about fifteen, he met noted Texas artists
Jose Arpa and Robert Wood. It was Wood who started Salinas in his
specialty by hiring him to add bluebonnets into Woods's own Texas
landscapes because Wood himself hated painting them.

Throughout the 1930s, Salinas supported himself, and frequently members of
his extended family, as an artist. Then in 1939 he met Austin art dealer
Dewey Bradford who became his agent for the remainder of Salinas's life.
Bradford raised Salinas's profile among collectors, placing his works with
many prominent politicians and businessmen. Not long after his marriage to
Maria Bonillas in 1942, Salinas was drafted. The military was also quick
to recognize where his talents lay and he was assigned to paint a series
of murals at Fort Sam Houston and also did a number of easel paintings for
Colonel Telesphor Gottchalk, the reception center commander, as well as
others. He spent his entire war career painting on the home front (and
mostly from his home). Traveling military personnel began to spread his
name throughout the country during and after the war. Then, in 1947,
Bradford arranged for the New York Graphics Society to publish two of
Salinas's bluebonnet prints which quickly became among the most popular of
NYG's prints.

Though he suffered through a difficult period in his life leading to a
decline in commissions during the early 1950s, Salinas made a comeback in
1957 with a set of stunning diorama murals for the Lone Star brewery and
became freshly popular in Texas. Though he continued to be ignored by
mainstream critics who disdained regional artists, he was sought after by
private collectors who included Texas Governor John Connelly and President
Lyndon Johnson. In 1963, then Vice President Johnson announced that
Salinas was his "favorite artist", an endorsement that led to celebrity
status for the artist and a commensurate rise in the value of his
paintings. His work eventually acquired such acclaim in its blending of
subject and style that in 1973 Austin, Texas celebrated Porfirio Salinas
Day in his honor, citing him for having "done much to bring the culture of
Mexico and Texas closer together with his paintings." Unfortunately, he
passed away at the age of only sixty-two that same year.

Salinas has become one of, if not the most renowned of all Texas artists.
In 1981, the first "Salinas Festival" was held in Bastrop. Most of all,
Salinas almost single-handedly made bluebonnet painting a specialty. Every
spring, Marble Falls in the hill country of Texas holds the Bluebonnet
Blues & Fine Arts Festival which features a juried annual plein air
painting contest, the most common subject of which is bluebonnets.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections