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    Sale 2005

    Latin American Sale Evening Session

    28 - 29 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 46

    Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo, Mexican 1875-1964)


    Price Realised  


    Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo, Mexican 1875-1964)
    signed and dated 'dr atl, 1958' (lower left)
    oil and Atl Color (solid resin-based pigments) and tempera on masonite
    29 x 46 in. (74 x 117 cm.)
    Painted in 1958.

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    This lot is sold with a certificate of authenticity from the Fundación Andrés Blaisten dated March 10, 2008 and will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné currently being prepared under archive 58-04.

    Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo) dedicated much of his life to the study of volcanoes in his native Mexico. As Dore Ashton has observed, "from 1907 to 1941, he painted numerous panoramic landscapes depicting the sites around Popocatéptl and Iztaccíhuatl, the two largest volcanoes in Mexico."(1) Atl played a key role in modernizing landscape in Mexico. He encouraged reforms at the San Carlos Academy, and promoted the use of mural painting in public spaces. His a pioneering project interrupted by the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution and later adopted by the Vasconcelos government, leading to the well-known careers of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The first two were his students.

    In 1939, he returned to working outdoors after painting numerous landscapes from memory. That year, he published Volcanes de México. He continued to render views of the Valley of Mexico and its volcanoes until his death in 1964. The better to observe this volcanic landscape, in 1942 "he built a home near the volcano, Paricutín, 200 miles due west of Mexico City."(2) Atl has earned renown in Mexico and internationally for his work, especially for his striking landscapes, of which this late work depicting Iztaccíhuatl is both a culmination, and exquisite example of, his obsession with the majestic and overwhelming volcanic landscape of Mexico.

    In his 1921 book of poetry, which he illustrated, Atl's expressed beautifully his life-long devotion to his country's landscape:
    From the peak of the Volcano, I saw the World as a marvelous spectacle and I loved it deeply, intensely and without reservations. [Author's translation](3)

    This landscape is representative of his late works, which often feature an aerial perspective, akin to that one would see from a helicopter, and depicts both Iztaccíhuatl and the curvature of the earth, thus enhancing the sublime character of this vantage point. The turbulent clouds and dramatic silvery leaden sky heighten the drama of the scene and the great height of the point of view. At the same time, they serve as a contrast to Atl's characteristically bright hues--lavender, a creamy brown, vivid green and turquoise blue, here rendered in oil. Atl's handing of his material varies throughout this work: long broad strokes to stress the leaden sky and broad expanse of blue pointing to he earth's contour, a looser application to render the cottony layer of clouds above the volcano; and a thicker impasto to render its snowy peak.

    In choosing this landscape, Atl's inserts these works in a long line of images of the volcanoes --dating back to the Aztecs, and spanning both the colonial era and traveler painters from the United States and Europe. In its academic rendering and naturalistic color palette, the Mexican painter José María Velasco's 1876 iconic Valle de México was a precursor for Atl. However, Atl's color palette, original material--he invented a medium which he called Atl color--and his varied application of color are all indicative of his radical innovations. Thus Atl inserted himself into a lineage of depictions of the landscape that came to define the Valley of Mexico and its volcanoes as quintessential representations of Mexican national identity, while forging a new path that merits his role as one of the key Mexican artists of the early 20th century.

    Dr. Miriam Basilio, Assistant Professor of Art History and Museum Studies, New York University.

    1) D. Ashton, "Luminous Morning, Valley of Mexico, 1942," Catalogue entry in Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Bullfinch Press, 1990, 559.
    2) Ashton, op. cit 559.
    3) Desde la cima del Volcán, yo vi el Mundo como un espectáculo maravilloso y lo amé sin reticencias, profundamente, intensamente. Dr. Atl "Las Sinfonías del Popocatéptl (fragmentos)," cited in El Mito de los volcanes: Popocatéptl and Iztaccíhuatl, Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2005, 98.


    By descent to the present owners.

    Pre-Lot Text