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JESUS HELGUERA (1912-1971) - Artists - Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara's Finest Art Gallery

La Bamba, c. 1940s

51 x 39 inches | oil on canvas

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.


3:25 | Narrated by Edgard Rincon | In English

3:25 | Narrated by Edgard Rincon | In Spanish

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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.




Museo Soumaya
Private Collections




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




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


1986 Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico, sala Diego Rivera

1980 Museo de Bellas Artes, opening by Miguel de la Madrid, President of Mexico

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