Born in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1885, Montenegro began studying painting under Feliz
Bernardelli. In 1904, then living in Mexico City,
he began studying architecture, which he soon abandoned to take up studies
in the Academy of San Carlos under Antonio Fabres,
Julio Ruelas, Leandro Izaguirre and German Gedovius.
His peers in the academy included Diego Rivera, Angel Zarraga
and Francisco Goitia.
Later, with a scholarship from the
Mexican government, he entered the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid where he met and worked with Joaquín
Sorolla and Ignacio Zuloaga.
In 1907 he moved to Paris where he met Picasso, Gris and Cocteau.
Stimulated by the energy of Paris, he made some drawings for the magazine Le Temoin, illustrated Aladin's
Lamp and wrote a biography of Russian dancer Nijinsky.
The outbreak of First World War forced
Montenegro to move to Mallorca, where he stayed for almost five years. During
his exile he met Anglada Camarasa,
a highly recognized Catalunian painter of the
time, who notoriously influenced Montenegro's style.
Soon after Montenegro's return to Mexico, José Vasconcelos
commissioned him to paint frescos in the convent of San Pedro and San Pablo. In 1924, Montenegro finished one of his best works — "Fiesta de
la Santa Cruz" — on the staircase of that building.
Montenegro was also an influential promotor of popular arts, organizing events such as the
first popular arts festival in 1921. In the thirties he published a book
del Periodo 1800-1860"— and collaborated
with Marc Chagall in the choreography of the ballet Aleko,
and with Antonio Leal in the Le Simoun
ballet by Lenormand. He also dedicated himself to
portraiture, becoming a master of technique, best seen in a portrait of his
friend Chucho Reyes Ferreira, currently found at
the the Regional Museum of Guadalajara.
In 1951, indulging his taste for
popular art, he published "Retablos Mexicanos". He successfully exhibits his work both
in Mexico and in foreign countries, which yields him multiple
ackowledgements. In 1965, the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City exhibited an anthology of his work spanning five
decades. His death in Mexico City in 1968 was mourned by the artistic community in Mexico and abroad.