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Retablo: Behind the Altar, A Collection of Paul LeBaron Thiebaud
September 24 - December 30, 2006
The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico presents the exhibition Retablo: Behind the Altar, A Collection of Paul LeBaron Thiebaud organized by LeBaron's Fine Art, Sacramento, California. The exhibition opens September 24 and will be on view through December 30, 2006. It features a collection of over 100 Mexican tin retablos as well as a handful of relicarios (reliquaries), ex voto paintings and religious sculptures (bultos). (left: Retablo from the collection of Paul LeBaron Thiebaud)
Paul LeBaron Thiebaud began assembling this collection of retablos when he was only 19 years old. He states: "They were naïve, authentic, magical and inexpensive. Over the years, they have stayed true to these characteristics and so I have continued to pursue them with an almost fanatical zeal." The works in Thiebaud's collection were all made in Mexico by anonymous artisans. Thiebaud collected the works based on their artistic merits rather than their subject or historical significance. He has said of the works: "They are at once reverent and personal, painterly and sculptural, simple and powerful. That man can be so inspired as to reach for the heavens and create such beauty is, in my opinion, the actual religion that is reflected in these treasures."
Retablos, better known as laminas in Mexico, are small oil paintings on tin, zinc, wood or copper that are used in home altars to venerate Catholic saints or the Holy Family. This genre of folk art, deeply rooted in Spanish history, flourished in Mexico starting in the 17th century and becoming particularly popular in the last quarter of the 19th century with the introduction of inexpensive mediums such as tin. Small retablo factories of trained and untrained artists were established to create these works; some subjects were more popular than others. A typical retablero may have reproduced the same image hundreds, if not thousands, of times in his career.
There are many Catholic saints, each associated with different situations or needs. For example, San Ysidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers, is called upon for good weather and agricultural issues such as plentiful crops. He is often invoked just before picnics or the harvest. San Geronimo, the patron saint of scholars and philosophers, is also asked for protection against temptations and want as he spent four years in the forest as a hermit.
The Thiebaud collection also contains a small group of reliquaries (relicarios) for holy objects, bultos or devotional statues, and ex-votos-paintings on tin or canvas which offer thanks to a patron saint for a blessing received.
James Eddy of Colonial Arts in San Francisco has said of Paul Thiebaud's collection: "The diversityis a great learning tool for the beginner or advanced enthusiast. It is demonstrative of the broad range in artistic styles, the multiplicity of subjects and saints and perhaps most of all of the evolution of retablo art, beginning with earlier colonial works on copper to the more spontaneous folk masterpieces on tin-plate."
Retablo: Behind the Altar, A Collection of Paul LeBaron Thiebaud opens September 24 with a public reception from 3-5 pm. The exhibition continues through December 30. Also opening concurrently are Melissa Zink: The Language of Enchantment and Seeing Clearly: Photographs by Mildred Tolbert.
A Gallery Talk with Robin Gavin, Curator, Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe, will be held in conjunction with the exhibition Thursday, October 26th at 7pm
Selected artwork label text from the exhibition
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