Porfiro Salinas was born in Bastrop, Texas. He attended the public schools of San Antonio, Texas, for three years. Although he had little formal artistic training, Salinas sold art supplies and learned from observing other artists. He would watch José Arpa, director of the San Antonio Art School, sketch in the streets and fields of San Antonio. Later, Robert Wood, a prolific landscape painter, paid Salinas five dollars a picture to paint in bluebonnets on his canvases because “he hated to paint bluebonnets.” Salinas’ earliest commissions involved painting signs on beer trucks and Christmas cards.
Salinas is known for painting traditional Southwest landscapes and genre. His subjects include bluebonnets, prickly cactus, rugged landscapes, sunny villages, and bull fights. They are untitled: “They are whatever they say to the viewer.”
Salinas was conscripted and served in the army from 1943 to 1945. He was assigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where he painted murals for the officers’ lounge and other special assignments for Colonel Telesphor Gottchalk, the reception center commander. Salinas was allowed to live at his home, where he continued his easel painting for the entire duration of his tour of duty.
Although the artist did not initially receive the attention of the professional art establishment, he achieved a popular following among many Texans as well as the political leaders of Texas and the United States - among them Lyndon Johnson, who began to collect his work in the 1940’s. President Johnson also gave a Salinas painting to the President of Mexico as a state gift, and Salinas’ work gained popularity outside of Texas. His work began to command high prices, and in 1973, the city of Austin celebrated a Porfirio Salinas Day. The painter was honored for having “done much to bring the culture of Mexico and Texas closer together with his paintings.”
A painting of the Texas hill country intended as a gift for President Kennedy was retained by Salinas, as was the allegorical painting after Kennedy’s death, a lone horse against ominous clouds.