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    Description

    PORFIRIO SALINAS (1910-1973)
    Irish Flats San Antonio
    Oil on canvas
    16in. x 20in.
    Signed lower left

    In 1928, empresarios John McMullen and James McGloin contracted with the government of Mexico to settle 200 Irish Catholic families on eighty leagues of land in what is now known as San Patricio (St. Patrick) County. The settlers had trouble with the Karankawa Indian tribe and the Irish colony was almost completely massacred on at least two occasions.

    The settlers moved to San Antonio to flee Indian attacks and the area they chose to settle was a flat bottom land, hence "The Flats." Although this area is in what we now consider downtown San Antonio, at that time it was considered a remote settlement, far from the heart of the city.

    There is some disagreement about the correct name for the area, although it is commonly called Irish Flats. Some maintain that it was called "The Flats" and was not called "Irish Flats" until a painting by Spanish artist José Arpa was given this title. That painting, Irish Flats, 24in. x 34in., was purchased by the San Antonio Art League in 1915.

    The streams of the acequia nourished the tall pecan trees and huisache, cosmos, crepe myrtles, and the vegetable plots at every house.

    The houses they built are considered unique, based on the homes the immigrants left in Ireland, adapted to the local conditions and with some ideas borrowed from their Spanish and German neighbors. The houses were generally flush to the street, with narrow front porches, low ceilings, and thatch roofs. The thatch, reminiscent of Kilarney in Ireland, was eventually replaced by shingles in most homes, and then by tin.

    The thick walls were made from limestone and caliche. The soft limestone, called "tufa" stone, was available from Powder Hill Quarry, east of the city near Mission Concepción. Sidney Lanier wrote in his historical sketch, San Antonio de Bexar, that the limestone was so soft when quarried that it could be cut with a knife; it hardened when exposed to the elements.

    The thick walls helped keep the houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Most of the houses had a large central corridor, with doors front and back to catch the breeze.

    At the turn of the century, many of the still-solid houses were torn down to make way for commercial expansion. An article in the June 21, 1927 edition of the San Antonio Express-News was headlined "Quaint Buildings Mark Old Irish Flats" and laments that "All but a remnant here and there of the Old Irish Flats have passed into San Antonio history." In the boom years after World War II, most of the remaining residences were either torn down or converted to commercial use.

    This colorful, light-filled jewel of a painting by Porfirio Salinas documents this historic area of San Antonio when the streets were unpaved and farm animals roamed the streets. The 1915 painting of Irish Flats by José Arpa, currently in the collection of the San Antonio Art League, exhibits a very similar scene and possibly the exact same building Porfirio Salinas painted on this canvas.

    Provenance:
    Acquired from the artist by the present owner



    Condition Report*: Excellent condition on original unlined canvas with no restorations. Period frame in excellent condition.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    December, 2006
    2nd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
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