Manuel González Martí was born on 1 January 1877, the son of Emilio González Pitarch, a lawyer in the Valencian Justice Courts. He studied Law at the University of Valencia and Fine Arts at the Academia Real de San Carlos.
At the age of 18 he was inspired by his teacher, the sculptor, artist and collector of tiles, Mariano Garcia Mas, to start collecting ceramics himself. He was also inspired by the publication of the first major study of Valencian tiles by the Catalan architect José Font y Guma.
In 1897 he started his career as a caricaturist under the name of Folchi, and founded and collaborated in humorous art magazines such as Cascarrabias, Arte Moderno, Valencia Artistica and Impresiones. Through these magazines he met other artists such as José and Mariano Benlliure. His caricatures earned him several prizes, and he was rewarded with the gold medal in the Valencia Regional Exposition in 1909 and a silver medal in the Barcelona International Exposition in 1911. His best known comical series in which, with subtle irony, he depicted the thoughts and attitudes of country folk is called Doctories de l’Horta. The series of graphic humour was made using photographic images before being written down.
As a student of ceramics, he discovered the archaeological remains of the former medieval pottery of Paterna, when taking part in the first excavations of this area in 1907. By 1909 he had amassed quite a substantial ceramics collection and so was able to lend numerous pieces to the Valencia Regional Exposition and to the Retrospective Art section of the National Exposition in 1910. The painter Joaquín Sorolla had also suggested at around the same time that he should sell his collection of ceramics to the Hispanic Society, an offer which he declined. In 1911 Martí began his studies of tiles, travelling to Rome to develop his knowledge of Valencian tiles in the Borgia rooms in the Vatican buildings. He was received by the director of the Academy of Spain, at the time José Benlliure.
After the Manises School of Ceramics was created in 1914 by Vicente Vilar David and Vicente Mora Arenes, Manuel González Martí became a practical studies teacher in the Technical and Artistic Development of Ceramics. He officially took up his post in 1916 and then became director from 1922 until 1936. He resumed this position after the war, up until his retirement in 1947.
During this time he began his work as a writer and art critic, collaborating in El Correo and Valencia Artistica and published monographs such as “Goya in Valencia” and “Pinazo, his life and work” This dedication to the history of art resulted in his highest recognition in 1924, when he was appointed Royal Representative of Fine Arts for the Valencian Province. At that time, the pages of the Valencian Art Achive, alongside other publications, began to recognise the study of medieval ceramics, publishing “Spanish Ceramics” in 1933. Later, another three volumes of his main contribution – ‘Ceramics of Eastern Spain’ (1944-1952) would appear.
From a young age, he was involved in the regionalist association Lo Rat Penat, of which he was head between 1928 and 1930, and between 1950 and 1962.
As a museum specialist he was entrusted in 1940 with running Valencia’s Museum of Fine Arts, a position which he held until 1955. Already retired, he was also Regional Head of Culture between 1949 and 1950, and Vice-president of the Council between 1952 and 1955. On 6 February 1947, after the passing of his wife Amelia Cuñat y Monleón in July 1946, he donated his collection of ceramics to the state, thus creating the National Museum of Ceramics, and became its lifelong Director. In 1955, the Congress of the International Ceramics Academy in Nice acknowledged him as Permanent Academy Member, a title which came with a gift of five Picasso ceramics. In 1960 he became Honorary Vice-President of the New York Hispanic Society.