Emigdio Vasquez, whose bold use of color, exacting brush skills and uncanny ability to capture everyday people in dramatic moments made him one of the most influential pioneers of the Chicano art movement, died Aug. 9 at an assisted-living home in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 75.
The cause was pneumonia, his family said.
Mr. Vasquez created more than 400 paintings and nearly two dozen murals. Many of the latter dot buildings throughout Orange County, where he lived most of his life.
Arguably his most famous work, “Legacy of Cesar Chavez,” graces the lobby of the computer center at Santa Ana College, where Mr. Vasquez once studied art and later taught the subject. It shows the labor leader surrounded by everyday people at a United Farm Workers event.
“I consider my art to be a part of the experience of the working class,” Mr. Vasquez once said. “The daily lives of people in the barrio are documented in my work.”
That was reflected in such works as “Onion Peddler,” “El Wino” and “Downtown Intellectual,” as well as still others of zoot-suited Chicano youths and of children playing in the modest yards of their homes.
Mr. Vasquez spoke of two major influences, Mexican artist Diego Rivera and the Dutch painter Rembrandt, said his daughter Rosemary Vazquez-Tuthill. To that he added his own detailed brush work that gave his subjects what Vasquez-Tuthill, also a painter, called a stunning look sometimes described as social realism.
Emigdio Vasquez was born in Jerome, Ariz., in 1939. His father was a copper miner who moved the family to Southern California when the end of World War II eased the demand for the mineral.
Mr. Vasquez recalled becoming serious about art as early as kindergarten, then going on to create comic books based on the tales of the Mexican Revolution that his father would tell him.
He was a graduate of California State University at Fullerton, where he also received a master’s degree in art. His thesis project was creating an 85-by-65 foot mural depicting the Chicano working class. Its figures were modeled on his father and other laborers and field hands he knew personally.
During the next 30 years, he would create murals for Disneyland, Anaheim City Hall, the Orange County Transportation Center and numerous other buildings.
His paintings, meanwhile, were exhibited across the United States, in Mexico and Italy.
His marriage to Rosie Lopez Schelerth ended in divorce. Besides his six children, survivors include four brothers and a sister.