Nov 132014

Han(n)s Otto Butterlin (or Otto Butterlin as he was usually known, at least in Mexico) was born in Cologne, Germany, 26 Dec 1900 and became an abstract and impressionist painter of some renown.

He was the oldest of the three Butterlin brothers. Otto moved with his middle brother Frederick and their parents (Johannes and Amelie) from Germany to Mexico in 1907. (Otto’s youngest brother Ernesto would be born a decade later in Guadalajara.)

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

U.S. immigration records show that Otto Butterlin (5’9″ tall with blond hair and blue eyes) was resident there between August 1924 and October 1929, though he probably made trips to visit family in Mexico during that time.

Otto made his living as a chemist and supervisor of operations in various industrial plants for at least 15 years. At the time of the 1930 Mexican census (held on 15 May), he and his wife were living in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where he was working at the sugar refinery.

The following year, in 1931 Margaret gave birth to their daughter Rita Elaine in Los Mochis. Rita went on to marry four times. Her first marriage (1951-58) was to one of Otto’s friends – textile artist and silkscreen innovator Jim Tillett (1913-1996) – and her second (1959-1963) to Chilean film star Octavio Señoret Guevara (1924-1990). She was subsequently briefly married (1967-69) to Haskel Bratter, before falling in love with and marrying (1971-his passing) Howard Perkins Taylor (1916-1993).

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

Woodcut by Hanns Otto Butterlin, Ixtaccihuatl (1921)

While Rita was still an infant, Otto decided to formalize his permanent right to residence in Mexico and became a naturalized Mexican citizen in October 1935. Immigration records show that he continued to visit the U.S. several times a year.

It appears to be at about this time that Otto decided to spend more time on his art.

By the early 1940s, Otto Butterlin was based in Mexico City and working as an executive in the Bayer chemical company, a position which enabled him to supply several well-known artists of the time, such as A. Amador Lugo (who was epileptic) with needed medications, at a time when they were very hard to obtain.

During this period, Butterlin taught art with, or to, numerous well-known Mexican artists, including Diego Rivera, Ricardo Martinez, José Chávez Morado, Ricardo Martínez and Gunther Gerzso.


Hanns Otto Butterlin. The Funeral (ca 1942)

In September 1945, Otto and his wife Peggy, together with daughter Rita, relocated to live in Ajijic. In a 1945 article, Neill James, who had arrived in Ajijic a couple of years earlier, described Otto Butterlin as a “well known expressionist and abstract painter who owns a huerta in Ajijic where he lives with his wife, Peggy, and daughter, Rita.”

Otto Butterlin: Modern Figure Study. 1949

Otto Butterlin: Modern Figure Study. 1949

The group of artists exhibiting watercolors in May 1954 in “Galería Arturo Pani D.” in Calle Niza in Mexico City includes a Butterlin (probably Otto) alongside such famous contemporary artists as Raúl Anguiano, Fererico Cantú, Leonora Carrington, Carlos Mérida, Roberto Montenegro, Juan Soriano, Rufino Tamayo and Alfredo Zalce.

Otto Butterlin died in Ajijic on 2 April 1956.

Note (April 2016): We thank the Registro Civil in Chapala which kindly emailed us a copy of the official death certificate of Otto Butterlin.

This is an outline profile. Contact us if you would like to learn more about this particular artist or have information to share.

Partial list of sources:

  • Monica Señoret (Otto Butterlin’s granddaughter), personal communications via email. April 2015.
  • María Cristina Hernández Escobar. “Gunther Gerzso, The Appearance of the Invisible”. Voices of Mexico. UNAM. n.d. [formerly at]
  • Robert L. Pincus, “WPA captures the soul of a nation”, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 February 2006, page F-1.
  • Robert Hilton (ed). Who’s Who In Latin America A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women Of Latin America. Part I – Mexico. (1946)

As always, we would love to receive any comments, corrections or additional information.

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  7 Responses to “German-Mexican artist Hanns Otto Butterlin (1900-1956)”

  1. Hi, im Otto’s granddaughter and I’m interested in all the info I can archive about my grandfather. I live in San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City. My mother Rita is with me in San Miguel and she is now 83 years old. I have a big collection on my grandfathers work, that would love to virtually share.
    Thank you for all the investigation you have!
    Monica Señoret

    • Thanks for getting in touch. How thrilling to be in touch with a close relative of such a great artist! I will respond properly via email later today or early tomorrow. TB

  2. Hi, I’m in Arkansas pass, Texas, near corpus Christi. Did
    Otto die in corpus? I have an original butterlin painting that I’d like to know more about and am considering selling. It looks like a Carnivale scene, dancers in the street, 16×20 I believe…

    • Thanks for getting in touch. Otto died in about 1960 in the Chapala region of Jalisco, Mexico. I’d be interested to see a photo of the painting, if that’s possible? Please use the email of
      While I have no idea what your painting is likely to be worth (and no personal interest in purchasing it), if you think it would help, I can forward your message and email to a direct descendant of Otto Butterlin, TB

  3. Hi, Would Love to know how you own the painting and if you got it in Usa or Mexico. Can you post a picture of it? And how much you are thinking on selling it for? Have never bought a paintings of my grandfather since I have many, but maybe, it depends on what you would like for it and if I like it.
    Thank you !

  4. During the depression, my Grandfather and his family moved to ‘old Mexico’ in order to work. They lived close to Mr. Butterlin and would often travel to spend time with him and his wife. I have a photo of Mr. Butterlin and his wife. I also have a signed, original painting of his. My mother told me Otto Butterlin was a German defector, which, of course, made me even more interested in him. Today, while looking at the painting, I decided to Google him. I love the painting, mostly because my mother always had it hanging in our homes, and have no interest in selling it, but would love to know what the value is.
    Scooter deWinter

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