Gabriel Fernández Ledesma (Biographical details)

Gabriel Fernández Ledesma (printmaker; Mexican; Male; 1900 - 1983)

Also known as

Fernández Ledesma, Gabriel; Ledesma, Gabriel Fernandez


Text from Dawn Adès and Alison McClean, 'Revolution on Paper, Mexican Prints 1910-1960', with the assistance of Laura Campbell, BMP, 2009

Gabriel Fernández Ledesma was born in Aguascalientes, the capital of a central Mexican state of the same name. In 1917, when he was seventeen, he moved to Mexico City, to study at the Academia de Bellas Artes (Academy of Fine Arts). During his time at the Academy he learnt the woodcut technique, which had recently been revived in Mexico by the French artist Jean Charlot (p. 60). In 1922 Ledesma began making prints and by 1925 he had established his own art school, the Centro Popular de Pintura 'Santiago Rebull'. Located in a suburb in the South of Mexico City, San Antonio Abad, this school put into practice the revolutionary ideology of making art accessible to everybody, regardless of background. Important printmakers studied here, including Jesús Escobedo and Emilio Amero, the printmaker who taught Fernández Ledesma lithography. The artist Isabel Villaseñor Ruíz (1909-53), whom Ledesma later married, was also among the alumni.
From 1930 Fernández Ledesma was involved in the management of the Sala de Arte at the Ministry of Education, with two fellow artists, Roberto Montenegro and Francisco Díaz de León. This trio produced the exhibition '100 años de litografía' ('A Hundred Years of Lithography'). The following year Fernández Ledesma travelled to Europe where he set up exhibitions in Seville and Madrid. He also participated in the film '¡Qué Viva México!' directed by Russian cinematographer Sergei Eisenstein. In 1940 he co-organized the New York exhibition '20 Siglos de Arte Mexicano' ('Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art') with Miguel Covarrubias. He was also involved in promoting Mexican Art, principally through his role in the publicity and marketing department at the Ministry for Education from 1938 until 1949.
Fernández Ledesma contributed to several magazines, including 'Forma', first published in 1926-7; 'Horizonte', a magazine from Jalapa in the state of Veracruz; and 'El Sembrador', the magazine of the Ministry of Education. However, he worked principally as an illustrator of short stories such as 'Viajes al siglo xix' and 'El Coyote' by Celedonio Serrano Martínez. His best-known book is 'Juguetes mexicanas' (1930), which includes colour prints: he was one of the earliest printmakers in Mexico to experiment with colour.
During the early twentieth century various artists' groups emerged in Mexico with an anti-elitist stance towards art and education. Having strong views of his own, in 1929 Fernández Ledesma joined '¡30-30!' for which he made flyers denouncing the elitist attitudes at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Fine Arts). He also collaborated with members of the TGP, although he was only ever a guest and never a full member. In 1947 he was assistant to the painter Miguel Covarrubias, who painted a mural on the wall of the Hotel del Prado in Mexico City. A decade later, in 1958, he became professor at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas (National School for Visual Arts).