Francisco Toledo, Celebrated Mexican Artist and Arts Philanthropist, Dies at 79


By then, many of Mr. Toledo’s works were selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the wealthier he became, the more he spent on philanthropy in Oaxaca. He converted his large colonial-style house into the Graphic Arts Institute, opening it for research and exhibitions of European and Latin American masterpieces of engraving, etching and drypoint. To make way for it, he moved a few blocks away to an adobe house almost bereft of art and furniture. There he would wear the white rough-cotton tunic and trousers and leather sandals of Oaxacan campesinos, or peasant farmers, his thick, black hair askew and his face flecked with gray stubble.

Mr. Toledo, who was known to smile or laugh only rarely, saved his humor for his civic campaigns. When the Oaxaca municipal government tried to sell a 17th-century convent to a hotel chain, he got permission from the local Roman Catholic diocese to paint many of the city’s churches with “for sale” signs, provoking an outcry that led the government to abandon the project.

The same Toledo tactics doomed a proposal to turn a 30-acre former orchard adjoining the magnificent Santo Domingo Church into a luxury hotel and parking lot. Instead, the property became a botanical garden displaying the varied native flora of Oaxaca.

Mr. Toledo is survived by his third wife, Trine Ellitsgaard, a Danish weaver. Survivors also include his five children, Jerónimo López Ramírez, a renowned tattoo artist; Natalia Toledo Paz, Mexico’s undersecretary of cultural diversity; Laureana Toledo, a photographer; Sara López Ellitsgaard, head of the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca; and Benjamín López Ellitsgaard.

In his 1996 interview with Town & Country magazine, Mr. Toledo outlined a typical day for him. He spent mornings in his studio. At midday, he met with local people seeking his support for new civic projects. And after lunch, he was back in his studio, working until late in the evening.

“After all,” he said, “if I don’t sell more art, there won’t be any new projects.”

Elda Cantú contributed reporting.



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