By 1921, Atl, busy painting murals, writing a landmark book about Mexican Popular Art, in which Tonala ceramics received great acclaim, had begun a wild, passionate but short-lived romance with Carmen Mondragon (otherwise known as Nahui Olin), an intense relationship punctuated by violent incidents and outbursts. Even Atl eventually conceded that Nahui Olin, in reality a nymphomaniac, was amongst other things, a “green-eyed serpent”.
Atl’s contribution to the Mexican art revolution had already been considerable; he had encouraged, aided and in several cases taught many major artists of the next generation including Orozco, Siqueiros, Clausell, Zaraga, Galvan and others, including a then unknown Diego Rivera . Atl had pressured his wealthier friends to buy all the works of a Rivera exhibition held to fund Rivera’s first trip to Europe. He had invented Atlcolors, painted several murals, though none have stood the test of time, overseen the rebirth of mural art in Mexico, helped in the transformation of art education throughout the country and made respectable the popular art forms of Mexico such as toys and handicrafts.
The eruption of the Paricutín volcano in 1943 gave Atl the opportunity to live on its ever changing slopes for a year and paint, draw and write to his heart’s content. His landscapes took on a distinctive look, much imitated since but never seen before, characterized by bold, heavy lines, simple forms, stark colours and undeniably Mexican in style. Late in his life, with the aid of borrowed Pemex helicopters, Atl pioneered another entirely new school of landscape painting, the “aerial” landscapes, painting vast tracts of Central Mexico as though seen from an aeroplane