Sullivan Goss
AN AMERICAN GALLERY
Celebrating 27 Years of 19th, 20th and 21st Century American Art
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JESUS HELGUERA

(1912-1971)

PAINTER OF THE HISTORY AND TRADITIONS OF MEXICO

By Edgard Rincon

Since the 1940s, large numbers of Mexican homes and businesses feature the calendar art of Jesus Helguera. Prints of his work were used in schools to teach children about Mexican history and to instill pride in the customs and traditions of the Mexican culture. Considered an illustrator, fame eluded him at first, just as it did the likes of Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper. With the 1980 exhibition of his work at the Museo de Bellas Artes that was opened by the President of Mexico, Helguera was finally given his due as one of the most important Mexican painters.




Table of Contents

I. BIOGRAPHY

Jesus Enrique Emilio de la Helguera was born in May 28, 1910 in Chihuahua, Mexico. His parents, Alvaro de la Helguera Garcia, a Spanish economist, and Maria Espinoza Escarzaga moved to Mexico City when Jesus was very young. Two years later, they moved to Cordoba, in the state of Veracruz.

In 1917, the family moved to Ciudad Real, Castilla la Nueva, Spain, and soon thereafter, they moved to Madrid. At 12 years old, he attended the Escuela de Artes y Oficios. At 14, he was admitted to the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes under Marcelino Santamaria, Manuel Benedito, Julio Romero Torres and others. He then studied at the famous Academia de San Fernando, and was a regularly found wandering the halls at the Museo del Prado.

He was hired as an illustrator at the Editorial Araluce working on books, magazines and comics. Many of his published works were done in gouache. He also worked for magazines such as Estampa and Blanco y Negro, and became a professor of visual arts at a Bilbao art institute.

The Spanish Civil War and related economic problems made him return to Mexico, where mural making was en vogue, and populism and socialism were in ascendance. Upon his arrival, he was hired by Cigarrera la Moderna, a tobacco company, to produce their calendars, printed by Imprenta Galas de Mexico.

In 1940, he painted La Leyenda de los Volcanes. It was purchased by Ensenanza Objetiva, a producer of didactic images for schools. From then on, Helguera’s images would be widely reproduced and would become a standard feature of Mexican homes, schools and businesses.

II. SGTV Video

"La Bamba by Jesus Helguera"
Produced and Narrated by Edgard Rincon

This video highlights one of the most significant works in the gallery's collection: "La Bamba" by Mexican master painter, Jesus Helguera. The video provides a short history of Helguera's work and demonstrates the artist's place among the greats within the very rich tradition of Mexican painting.

To watch this video en Espanol click here.

III. AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK

The work Helguera created in Spain has almost completely disappeared. Most of it was created for the Editorial Araluce, which specialized in comic books and other publications for children. It is believed that the majority of this work was done in gouache.

He admired the Mexican artists Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros, and Tamayo. Being very unassuming, he never considered himself an artist or tried to exhibit his original paintings.

Helguera would travel to the site of each painting and study the landscape, the local fauna and flora, as well as the customs and legends of the locality. He worked with deliberate brush strokes, but the overall impression would be of a carefully crafted work with a painstaking attention to detail. The structures of his paintings create a sense of grand scale, and his heroic themes capture the imagination of the viewer.

While in Mexico, Helguera turned to the nationalistic fashion of his day, usually portraying an idealized image of the more prosaic reality of Mexican life. Every man was a hero, and every woman a beauty, sometimes depicted with Arian features. His romantic approach to the figure gave his paintings the heroic impact that eventually made him famous.

IV. CHRONOLOGY

  • 1910 Born in Chihuahua, Mexico. Moves to Mexico City
  • 1912 Moves to Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico
  • 1917 Moves to Spain. Attends Escuela de Artes y Oficios and the Academia de San Fernando.
  • 1928 At 18, becomes professor of visual arts in Bilbao, and works for Editorial Araluce
  • 1938 Moves to Mexico
  • 1939 Becomes exclusive artist for Cigarrera la Moderna, S.A. de C.V.
  • 1939 Paints La Fiesta del Istmo and Poco a Poquito
  • 1940 Paints La Leyenda de los Volcanes
  • 1971 Dies December 4th
  • V. COLLECTIONS

  • Museo Soumaya
  • Private Collections
  • VI. EXHIBITIONS

  • 1980 Museo de Bellas Artes, opening by Miguel de la Madrid, President of Mexico
  • 1986 Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico, sala Diego Rivera
  • VII. Bibliography

    1. 1. “Jesus Helguera y su Pintura, Una Reflexion.” Elia Espinosa.
    2. 2. “Jesus Helguera” Imprenta Galas De Mexico.1989.
    3. 3. “Jesus Helguera, el Calendario como Arte.” Turok, Martha, Secretaria de Educacion Publica, Mexico.
    4. 4. “La Leyenda de los Cromos. El Arte de los Calendarios Mexicanos del Siglo XX en Galas de Mexico” Museo Soumaya, 2000.
    5. 5. “Mexicanos en su Tinta: Calendarios.” Quinones, Isabel. Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1994.
    6. 6. “Historia General de la Cultura.” Ferrandis Torres, Manuel. Madrid, Estades Artes Graficas, 1964.
    7. 7. “La Unidad Nacional y los Nacionalismos Espanoles” Ramos Oliveira, Antonio. Mexico, Editorial Grijalbo, 1970.
    8. 8. “La Espana del Siglo XX” Paris, Librería Espanola, 1966. Tunon de Lara, Manuel.
    9. 9. “La Pintura Espanola” Encina, Juan de la. Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1982.
    10. 10. “Historia del Arte Espanol” Gaya Nuno, Juan Antonio. Madrid, Editorial Plus Ultra, 1973.
    11. 11. “Breve Historia de la Pintura Espanola” Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Madrid, Editorial Tecnos, 1953.
    12. 12. “La Vie des Grands Peintres Espagnols” Deslandres, Ivonne, Paris, Albin Michel, 1965.
    13. 13. “La Peinture Espagnole” Lasaigne, Jacques. Ginebra, Skira, 1952.
    14. 14. “A History of Spanish Painting” Post, Chandler Rathfon, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1958 (Harvard Radclife, Fine Art Series).
    15. 15. “Evolution de la Peinture Espagnole des origines a Nos Jours” Serullaz, Maurice. Paris, Horizons de France, 1947.
    16. 16. “La Pintura del Siglo XX en Espana.” Sinopoli, Pedro. Santa Fe, Universidad Nacional del Litoral- Institucion Social, 1952.

    VIII. WORKS FOR SALE BY THIS ARTIST


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