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Pinturas de Fe: the Retablo Tradition in Mexico and New Mexico

June 2 - September 1, 2007

Pilgrimage, procession, and the creation of home altars and shrines are ancient religious practices that endure today in many cultures around the world. Pinturas de Fe: the Retablo Tradition in Mexico and New Mexico tells the story this tradition as it evolved in the Americas from the time of the Spanish Conquest to the present day.

The Mexican retablo tradition blossomed during the 17th through 19th centuries. Originally, the Spanish conquerors used small devotional saint paintings to convert the indigenous peoples to Catholicism. Retablos soon became popular objects of personal veneration. Workshops specialized in specific images believed to provide protection, health, and prosperity. Ex votos are small devotional paintings related to a personal crisis requesting a favor or offering thanks.

The popularity of retablos and ex votos peaked in the late 19th century with the introduction of tin, an inexpensive surface to paint on. The tradition traveled north to New Mexico, where artisans painted retablos on wooden panels. By the turn of the 20th century, the availability of inexpensive prints destroyed the market for painted retablos. Inspired by the Chicano movement of the 1960s, New Mexican artists led a retablo revival. Today, individual artists faithfully carry on the tradition of hand painted retablos, and contemporary artists from diverse cultural backgrounds draw creative inspiration from this popular art form.

The exhibition, organized by independent scholar Lane Coulter, will provide viewers with an appreciation and understanding of this popular expression of religious faith through examples drawn from private and museum collections including the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and the Museum of International Folk Art.

Organized for travel by the Museum of New Mexico Traveling Exhibitions Program.

  • Funded in par by Rio Tinto Energy America and the National Advisory Board of the UW Art Museum. 


Left: Maker unknown, St. Anthony of Padua, 14 x 10 inches, private collection TRX.2004.4.18

Center: Maker unknown, Our Lady of Guadalupe - (Nuestra Seora de Guadalupe), 13-3/4 x 9-5/8 inches, oil on tin, private collection TRX.2004.4.35

Right: Maker unknown, St. Camillus of Lellis, 14 x 10 inches, painted tin, private collection TRX.2004.4.19

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