Monday, July 27, 2015

Hermenegildo Bustos

Still life with fruit (with scorpion and frog)
oil on canvas
43.3 x 35.3 cm
Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico

Jose Hermenegildo de la Luz Bustos Hernandez, better known as Hermenegildo Bustos (1832-1907) was a Mexican painter of mestizo heritage. During his life he worked many odd jobs such as picking fruit, carpentry, painting and sculpture, but it was his unparalleled ability to make altarpieces and votive offerings (retablos and exvotos) which would make him one of the best Mexican artists of the turn of the Century.

He was born to a fervent Catholic family, descended from Indians who had been attached to the mission. Despite growing up in a small village, his youth was subject to the turmoils of the time, including a cholera epidemic, and the establishment of the Mexican nation. Following in his father's footsteps, he served as a sort of registrar for the village, recording names, dates and events. At various times, he worked as a tinsmith, tailor, carpenter, musician and mason, also displaying an affinity for history and astronomy. He also maintained an orchard for most of his life.

Little is known about his formal education, although his great skill makes evident that he did receive at least some academic training. As an artist, he started working in portraiture and became quite skilled and sought after for it. Aside from portraits, he also made still lifes and religious painting. He decorated the church of the Purisima in his home town with images from the Passion of Christ. He died in the same little town where he was born, the same place he lived and where he had worked all of his life. Following the Mexican Revolution, the nation's cultural heritage was reassessed and his work gained more notice, eventually receiving significant attention.