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Rafael Coronel (Mexican, 1932-2019)



One of the scions of the New Mexican Expressionist movements, Rafael Coronel’s paintings are known for their expressive and evocative atmosphere and his use of the great masters as portrait subjects. Born into a family of church painters, his work often plays with the Catholic themes that were instilled in him at an early age. Coronel worked for twenty years in his Uncle’s workshop, first as an apprentice, then later as an artist. It was during this time that the themes of Coronel’s work would begin to emerge. 

His paintings often feature past masters of painting in muted, surrealist settings, surrounded by fog and ghostly apparitions. Though he often worked in other mediums, like sculpture, his trademark impressionistic paintings quickly gave him recognition in Mexico, then later abroad -- especially in the southwest United States. His work has been exhibited in galleries across the world, but one would prove especially important to the young artist -- in 1959 while exhibiting at the Forsythe Gallery in Ann Arbor Michigan, he met Ruth Rivera Marin (daughter of Diego Rivera). The two would eventually marry. Coronel died in 2019. 

What type of art does Rafael Coronel create?

Rafael Coronel was a painter whose portraits often feature other great masters, often floating in a fantastical world. These abstractions are often painted with muted and dark tones, giving the piece a solemn and ominous atmosphere. Exhibited mainly in Mexico and the United States, Coronel has created major works since the mid-1950s, giving him a large and impressive catalog that is now known the world over. 

How often do Rafael Coronel pieces come up for auction?

Rafael Coronel’s paintings come up often for auction, though perhaps not as often as other major 20th century artists. For American collectors, these come up more often -- especially if they happen to be located in California or the American Southwest where Coronel’s pieces are the most popular. No matter what, a Coronel piece at auction is always worth a look.

How much is a Rafael Coronel painting worth?

Though Coronel pieces have sold for as much as $130,000, typical estimates usually put them in the $10,000 - $15,000 range. Some minor pieces by Coronel have even been estimated for as low as $500, which considering the artist’s merit and pedigree, are a considerable value. While these may not be major pieces, the artist’s passing in 2019 means that many of these works will see a bump in the next few years. 

Which Rafael Coronel work is the most valuable?

The highest price ever paid for a Rafael Coronel piece was $130,000 for Peregrinos, Serie IV (1970) making it the most valuable by almost double his next highest sale ($66,000). More typical is $50,000-$60,000 on the high end for a Coronel work, who has many in this range. Those pieces typically perform as predicted at auction, hitting close to the high estimate usually within a couple of thousand dollars.

What are the most famous paintings by Rafael Coronel? 

Many of Rafael Coronel’s most famous fall within the New Mexican Expressionist movement, including the aforementioned Peregrinos, Serie IV (1970). Besides this piece, SUENOS ANTIGUOS (LA MUERTE) (1966) Adan, el teporocho (1973), and Leonardo con fondo rojo (1982) are all signature examples of Coronel’s aesthetics. Subdued colors, surrealist backgrounds, and sobering images all haunt these iconic Coronel landscapes.

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