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Mel Ramos (American, 1935-2018)


Also known as:  Ramos, Melvin John

Birth Place: Sacramento, CA USA


Mel Ramos was an American figurative painter whose nudes melded together pop art, pinup, and surrealist aesthetics. Born and raised in Northern California, Ramos never strayed far from the Bay Area besides brief residencies at Syracuse University and the University of Wisconsin. His work became known during the pop art movement of the 1960s. The slick-looking oil paintings of Ramos often featured female nudes, drawn provocatively and surrealistically climbing from martini glasses or being unpeeled from a Chiquita banana. 

These paintings transcended traditional pinup art by bringing a post-modern sensibility to Ramos’ subjects. Through the juxtaposition of commercial images alongside 20th-century sexuality, Ramos is able to give a winking nod to the American monoculture of the 1960s and 1970s without fully committing to it. It’s why his work continues to resonate with collectors and institutions to this day. Ramos died in 2018. 

What type of art does Mel Ramos create?

Mel Ramos was an American painter whose female nudes blur the elements of both realist and abstract art. Principally known from his emergence in the pop art movement of the 1960s, Ramos's work is easily recognizable because of its cheeky humor and saturated colors. Indeed, many of Ramos oil paintings wouldn’t look out of place on a cereal box or billboard in an alternate dimension. 

How often do Mel Ramos paintings come up for auction?

Ramos is extremely popular with collectors and as such his work comes up for auction often. He died in 2018 and as such the public and collectors alike have seen a renewed interest in his catalog. While often provocative, the fun-loving mischievous side of his work mixed with his obvious talent makes a Ramos a welcome addition to any serious collector. 

How much is a Mel Ramos painting worth?

A Mel Ramos painting is worth anywhere from six figures ranging into the millions. Many of his most valuable pieces feature pop figures like Marilyn Monroe, The Green Lantern, or Velveeta Cheese. Works featuring these images have sold for well over $500,000. Many of these paintings have been sold at auction in the last ten or so years, proving that Ramos value is on an upswing. 

Which Mel Ramos painting is the most valuable? 

The highest price ever commanded for a Mel Ramos painting is for A.C. Annie (1971) which sold for $1,693,100. It features a nude woman in profile standing next to a large air conditioning unit. The juxtaposition of sexuality and commercialism make this a hallmark Mel Ramos piece, and as such it vastly outperformed its high estimate, which was only about $300,000 before auction. 

What are the most famous paintings by Mel Ramos? 

The most famous paintings by Mel Ramos include the aforementioned A.C. Annie (1971), Green Lantern (1962), and his “peekabo” series which features nude women as seen through a keyhole. Of these peekabo portraits, perhaps the most famous is Peek-A-Boo Marilyn #2: Lost Painting of 1964 (2002) which prominently features a nude Marilyn Monroe. 

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