(b Guatemala City, Dec 2, 1891; d Mexico City, Dec 21, 1985).
Guatemalan painter and printmaker. He came to painting through music, when incipient deafness made him exchange his piano for paintbrushes. His attendance at meetings organized by the Spanish Catalan painter Jaime Sabartés (1881–1968) proved decisive, for they brought him into contact with the paintings of Picasso; in 1912 he travelled to Paris, armed with a letter of introduction from Sabartés to Picasso. In Paris he frequented the studios of Amedeo Modigliani, Kees van Dongen and Hermengildo Anglada Camarassa and learnt about the artistic avant-garde. He also visited other European cultural centres.
On his return to Guatemala, Mérida, together with Rafael Yela Gunther, began to revalue indigenous art not for its folkloric aspects but for its essential local values prior to the Spanish conquest. At exhibitions held in Guatemala in 1919 and in Mexico in 1920, Mérida showed works such as Profile (1920; priv. col., see Nelken, illus. 2), in which he began to establish the distinctive characteristics of his later work: a search for geometric abstraction based implicitly on Mayan plastic arts; the use of intense flat colour, precisely delineated and clearly influenced by autochthonous art; static designs deriving from his European apprenticeship; elegance and good taste; and an emphasis on the human figure....