Born 26 March 1912 in Chiquinquirá, Boyacá, Columbia, Carlos López Ruíz (sometimes simply Carlos López) lived and painted in Ajijic for several years in the early 1960s. He came from a well-connected family, but disappointed his father by not entering the military or the church. Instead he became an artist.
He began his artistic career by drawing cartoons for newspapers in Bogotá, as a sideline while working in the Cartography Department of the War Ministry from 1944-1951. His drawings and caricatures appeared in several newspapers including El Liberal, humor section of Sábado and the sports section of El Tiempo.
In 1948, he displayed two artworks – a pencil drawing entitled “Tumaqueña” and an oil painting, “Indígenas del Pacífico” – in the first annual group show for artists from Boyacá.
By the early 1950s, he had become an established illustrator and caricaturist in Colombia, though his radical cartoons had gained him a certain notoriety. He left Colombia in 1952 for the U.S.
In 1953, he began a two year scholarship at the Corcoran Art School in Washington, D.C.. He was awarded first prize for oil painting in a collective exhibit arranged by the school. He spent the next five years studying the old masters in the finest U.S. museums, as well as modern art in galleries from Philadelphia to California.
In 1956-1957, he had several solo shows in Washington D.C., including shows at the Collectors Corner Gallery and the ArtSmart Gallery. He also exhibited in New York in the mid-1950s.
He returned briefly to Colombia in 1957 to participate in the 10th Annual Show of Colombian Artists. In 1959, he moved to Ajijic, Mexico, looking for new subjects to study and paint. During his time in Ajijic, he held several exhibitions in Guadalajara as well as in local Ajijic galleries. It was in Ajijic that he first met fellow artist Tink Strother (1919-2007), a relationship that lasted about seven years.
Tink Strother’s son Loy remembers that his mother first met the hard-drinking López Ruiz when the artist was living with an aging, alcoholic, silent screen star… in the fabled “Casa Estrella”, a large house overlooking the village. When the movie star’s family arrived and insisted on taking her back to the U.S. to a detox clinic, Carlos moved down the hill and installed himself in the Hotel Anita, a couple of blocks from the village plaza.
López Ruiz gradually melded into the local art scene, and painted prolifically, specializing in fine portraits of horses and toreadors, as well as village scenes.
After he and Tink Strother became “an item”, they lived together in Ajijic, and exhibited together in a group show in the Alfredo Santos gallery in Guadalajara (1962). In July 1962, López Ruiz returned for a short time to Colombia. The Galería “El Automático” in Bogotá held a one-man show for him later that year with twenty oil paintings.
Tink Strother and Carlos López Ruiz left Mexico and moved to California in 1963/64, where they opened a joint studio and gallery, first in Pico Rivera and then in Whittier. López Ruiz lived in Whittier until his death in 1972.
Loy Strother knew Carlos López Ruiz in the latter stages of his life as well as anyone, and still has the artist’s notebooks, drawings and personal writings. He admires Carlos as a fabulous painter, whose rapid brushwork was in no way inhibited by his copious consumption of brandy. López Ruiz was choosy about selling his work and would refuse to part with anything unless he decided he liked the purchaser.
The magnificent works of Carlos López Ruiz have been exhibited in Washington D.C., New York, Virginia, Texas, California, Mexico and Colombia.
Sombrero Books welcomes comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).
I have two original signed paintings by Carlos Lopez Ruiz. They are very large and beautiful paintings see attached photos. I would like to know more about them and what they are worth.. Thank you for your time..
How exciting! We would be certainly be interested in seeing photos. Please use the email link at the end of the article to send us a brief message, attaching the photos to the message, and we will edit your existing comment to include links to the images.
We will be happy to tell you more about them if we can.
While we will not be able to offer any opinion as to what they are worth, perhaps some other reader of the post will be able to help in this regard,
I have an original painting I purchased a few years ago at an estate sale. I sent photographs in an email and would like your opinion. It is unlike his paintings I have seen online and it is signed in the upper left corner, which I find strange. I would like to know if you feel it is indeed authentic and if you can give me an approximate age. Thanks for your help.
I have , The Clown. Original oil and pastel crayon. Can you tell me more.
We’d love to see a photo of it (attach it to an email). Doubt we can add much to what we’ve already written, but what else would you like to know?
I have a small painting of a conquistador.
I have 13 original paintings by Carlos Lopez Ruiz which were given to my parents from their dear friend whom I affectionately called “Aunt Tink”. I would love to have the “sad clown”, but I would take them all!
I also have a Ruiz painting Chess players I would like to know it’s worth
Thanks for getting in touch. Sorry, but we are unable to offer any help regarding the value of a painting.
I have an oil on canvas of two friendly charming clowns shaking hands, great small hats and clown shoes. One has a ruffle collar is holding a clock. Looks like1950s? Just signed Ruiz. Bottom right.
I have about 15 paintings of his, mostly of children or women holding a baby. The first couple were given to me by my grandparents, who bought them directly from Lopez Ruiz. (We are from Whittier!) I LOVE his style. I would like to know if there is a museum who is interested in his work. I would like to make a bequeath in my final wishes. Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.
Thanks for contacting me and for your interesting comment. I don’t know of any museum collection of his works but will contact someone who knew him well and see if he has any ideas.
Hi. I have three oil paintings of Carlos lopez Ruiz. One of them is not signed. Would you authenticate that one for me? I uploaded the link for the photo of the painting. Thanks.
Sadly, I am not an authenticator and can neither confirm nor deny that the painting is one of his, though it certainly looks like it may well be. Signed or not, it is a really nice painting!
I have a sculpture. And a painting. I am pretty sure it by this artist. I would like to know more about it or how I can find out who it was made by
Happy to help if I can. Please send me images (as attachments to an email), including both front and reverse sides of your painting, and a close up of any signature if your pieces have one, and I’ll see what I can do… Thanks for getting in touch, TB.
I have an original painting by Carlos Lopez-Ruiz. I cannot find a duplicate online anywhere. I have no clue who to contact in regards to selling his painting. I would rather not join eBay! If you could help put me in touch with someone, it would be greatly appreciated. I can send pictures at anytime as well.
Thanks for your comment. I don’t know anyone purchasing his work but would be happy to add, at no cost to you, a photo of your painting and note about it being for sale to the end of the post about the artist, if that would help. Please send any images or further details (size etc) via email. Regards, TB.
According to the story he told me at the time, the owner of a print gallery in Georgetown, DC, was working with Lopez Ruiz to design some invitations to a show. Lopez Ruiz, according to what I was told, had painted six potential covers for invitations. They were all signed by him. Reproducing them proved to be too expensive, so the project was shelved. However, the owner of the art gallery kept the six, and framed them. I had regularly shopped for prints there and bought two of those covers. They’ve been on my wal for a long time, and will remain there.
Pete, Thanks for this interesting anecdote about Carlos López Ruíz. I’d be interested to see photos of the covers if you are willing to share images of them via email. Regards, TB.
I have two original works by Carlos Ruiz. My mother, who was a beautiful artist, gave these to me in the 1980’s. Not sure when they were painted, but would love to have an idea of their value. I would be more than happy to send photos. Thanks!
I’m not qualified to assess their value but would certainly like to see photos of them.- firstname.lastname@example.org
I have what looks like an original painting by this Ruiz. It was the first artwork my brother-in-law bought my sister, after she divorced him she threw it in the trash and I pulled it out, this was 30+ years ago. It’s a bit rough looking around the edges. I think he bought it in the mid 70’s, they lived in North Hollywood at the time. I just rediscovered it in a closet and realized it was signed. I’ll try to send a photo if I can figure out how to.
Thanks for your comment. I’m replying via email.
We have a couple. Both on wood. One has 8 separate panels connected together in a wood frame. The images are of someone riding on horseback. Inherited from grandparents who lived in Whittier. It’s been on our wall ever since.
They sound interesting! Any chance of you sharing some images as attachments to an email? If so, Here is the email. Thanks, Tony.
I have several Carlos Lopez Ruiz paintings as well and many of Tink Strother’s.
Having been married to Loy (Tink’s son) for 40 years these paintings and the magnificent stories of Ajijic and Carlos have been part of my life. Tink was a unique Mother-in-law who loved to talk almost as much as she loved to paint.
Loy and I retired to Ajijic where after two beautiful years Loy passed.
Growing up in Whittier I lived down the street from Carlos Lopez Ruiz. I was just a kid when I knew him. He was very nice to me but was always drinking and drunk. He would pay me $5.00 a day every day to come into his house and wake him up if he was passed out, which he usually was, and to pick up all the beer cans throughout his house and put them in a paper trash bag and throw them away. He had paintings and paint and canvases, brushes all over his house. It was very sad I use to cry because I wished so much that Carlos would not be drunk and we could go places together. One day I introduced my mom to Carlos, and he sang her a song holding his nose with his fingers and blowing through his nose, but he was too drunk to stay awake. It was a sad situation. I had just started high school when Carlos died and found out that his work was in various galleries. Carlos gave me and my family many of his paintings that I cherish to this day. I will never forget the time that I was blessed to know him.
Michael, Thanks for sharing this heartfelt memory of Carlos. I’m delighted that many of his paintings ended up in such good hands. Regards, Tony.
We are packing for yet another move. My husband has two paintings so I decided to google the artist. And here I am. One is of Don Quixote on a horse. The other is of a young boy lying on a horse. On the back of one is a sticker picture $5.00. The other has what Looks like pencil practice drawing of a horses head. Can you tell me anything?? My husband and his family lived in Whittier.