Sometimes there is more to art than meets the eye, even in landscapes. A picture of a green valley is not only about a valley if the artist intended it as an allegory. In art, allegories express a truth about life or human nature through symbols. As an allegory, a green valley might represent many ideas, such as prosperity or optimism for the future.

Allegorical landscapes are one way that artists express nationalism. The meanings behind such artworks tell fascinating stories about the culture and identity of the countries they depict.
Sometimes there is more to art than meets the eye, even in landscapes. A picture of a green valley is not only about a valley if the artist intended it as an allegory. In art, allegories express a truth about life or human nature through symbols. As an allegory, a green valley might represent many ideas, such as prosperity or optimism for the future.

Allegorical landscapes are one way that artists express nationalism. The meanings behind such artworks tell fascinating stories about the culture and identity of the countries they depict.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved.

La Caza

La Caza (The Hunt)

José María Velasco (1840 - 1912)
Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA
c. 1865
MEXICO
oil on canvas
70.00 X 97.00 cm
© Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA


For the execution of La Caza, José María Velasco took inspiration from readings on ancient history and on-the-spot notes made in Olivar del Conde to the south of the City. Velasco used the light source in the background of the painting to dramatize the presence of the figures in the foreground. Far away in the distance he paints the Lake of Texcoco, the city of Tenochtitlan and temple of Huitzilopochtli, with its two altars on top. Pictorial reconstruction of pre-Columbian history was a subject taught at the San Carlos Academy from the sixties onwards.
For the execution of La Caza, José María Velasco took inspiration from readings on ancient history and on-the-spot notes made in Olivar del Conde to the south of the City. Velasco used the light source in the background of the painting to dramatize the presence of the figures in the foreground. Far away in the distance he paints the Lake of Texcoco, the city of Tenochtitlan and temple of Huitzilopochtli, with its two altars on top. Pictorial reconstruction of pre-Columbian history was a subject taught at the San Carlos Academy from the sixties onwards.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Catedral de Oaxaca

Catedral de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Cathedral)

José María Velasco (1840 - 1912)
Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA
1887
MEXICO
oil on canvas
© Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA


José María Velasco made a trip to Oaxaca to take on the spot notes. On commission from the Archbishop of Oaxaca, Mgr. Eulogio Gillow, who wished to make a gift to Pope Leon XIII, he painted this scene of the main square of the city, where ecclesiastical power is emphasized through the monumental bulk of the Cathedral, in contrast to the power of the state, symbolized by the Governmental Palace and the national flag flying over it, which we see small and afar off in the distance. Civic power is thus seen as secondary to that of the symbolic orders.
José María Velasco made a trip to Oaxaca to take on the spot notes. On commission from the Archbishop of Oaxaca, Mgr. Eulogio Gillow, who wished to make a gift to Pope Leon XIII, he painted this scene of the main square of the city, where ecclesiastical power is emphasized through the monumental bulk of the Cathedral, in contrast to the power of the state, symbolized by the Governmental Palace and the national flag flying over it, which we see small and afar off in the distance. Civic power is thus seen as secondary to that of the symbolic orders.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Paisaje nocturno

Paisaje nocturno (Nocturnal Landscape)

Diego Rivera (1886 - 1957)
Museo de Arte Moderno. INBA. CONACULTA
1947
MEXICO
oil on canvas
© Museo de Arte Moderno. INBA. CONACULTA


In 1947 Diego Rivera began work on the mural entitled A dream of a Sunday afternoon on the Alameda, a work to which the present one is related in both form and content. The children clinging to the tree trunks in the night are apparently waiting to see the spectacle of a country feast from which rays of light are reflected on the branches of the trees in the foreground. The painting poses a question: Who is the observer? The children who are gazing at something we cannot see, since we are standing in the way of their gaze, or we who are standing in front of them?
In 1947 Diego Rivera began work on the mural entitled A dream of a Sunday afternoon on the Alameda, a work to which the present one is related in both form and content. The children clinging to the tree trunks in the night are apparently waiting to see the spectacle of a country feast from which rays of light are reflected on the branches of the trees in the foreground. The painting poses a question: Who is the observer? The children who are gazing at something we cannot see, since we are standing in the way of their gaze, or we who are standing in front of them?

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

La ofrenda

La ofrenda (The Offering)

Saturnino Herrán (1887 - 1918)
Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA
1913
MEXICO
oil on canvas
© Museo Nacional de Arte. INBA. CONACULTA


An aboriginal family is seen here on a river punt on the waters of one of the canals near the city, carrying cempasuchil flowers to decorate their altar to dead family members, and thereby observe the tradition of the Day of the Dead. Through the presence of a baby, a young girl, middle-aged and elderly people, Saturnino Herrán makes reference to the theme of life and death and of the life-cycle, a favourite topic of Symbolist-inclined end of century art. Through Herrán's visual idiom, the presence of popular figures immersed in everyday scenes, with an evocative tinge of bygone times, became more prominent and began to be associated with a nationalist aesthetic which, towards the twenties, was recognized as a iconographic system of reference to national identity.
An aboriginal family is seen here on a river punt on the waters of one of the canals near the city, carrying cempasuchil flowers to decorate their altar to dead family members, and thereby observe the tradition of the Day of the Dead. Through the presence of a baby, a young girl, middle-aged and elderly people, Saturnino Herrán makes reference to the theme of life and death and of the life-cycle, a favourite topic of Symbolist-inclined end of century art. Through Herrán's visual idiom, the presence of popular figures immersed in everyday scenes, with an evocative tinge of bygone times, became more prominent and began to be associated with a nationalist aesthetic which, towards the twenties, was recognized as a iconographic system of reference to national identity.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Lago de Pátzcuaro

Lago de Pátzcuaro (Lake Pátzcuaro)

Gabriel Figueroa (1907 - 1997)
Figueroa Collection
1948
MEXICO
Original still shot, restored and digitized from the film Maclovia, 35mm transparancies
© Figueroa Collection


Gabriel Figueroa recounts that in the forties the town was small, artists knew each other personally, and that for him it was a challenge to achieve in his photo views the essential qualities sought by the Mexican school. The broad sweep and constructive view in Gabriel Figueroa's work emphasizes the monumental and majestic qualities of the landscape, and less its association with a tragic personal view. In the aesthetic vision of El Indio Fernández, director of the film Maclovia, and the photography of Gabriel Figueroa, the landscape itself becomes a utopic symbol of the essence of Mexico.
Gabriel Figueroa recounts that in the forties the town was small, artists knew each other personally, and that for him it was a challenge to achieve in his photo views the essential qualities sought by the Mexican school. The broad sweep and constructive view in Gabriel Figueroa's work emphasizes the monumental and majestic qualities of the landscape, and less its association with a tragic personal view. In the aesthetic vision of El Indio Fernández, director of the film Maclovia, and the photography of Gabriel Figueroa, the landscape itself becomes a utopic symbol of the essence of Mexico.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Be conscious of the emotional impact that is caused and shaped by a work of art
  • Define allegory, and give examples from landscape art
  • Describe how allegory in landscape reveal aspects of culture and national identity
  • Be aware of the commonality of themes in landscape art among the three North American countries"

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