Tag Archive | Artwork

Object: Lithograph

Hermann Lungkwitz
German American
Fredericksburg, TX
Materials: Paper and ink

Karl Friedrich Hermann Lungkwitz, “On the Pedernales River,” oil on paper. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This object is a lithograph of the Texas Hill Country in Fredericksburg made by the artist and photographer Hermann Lungkwitz in the mid nineteenth century. Karl Friedrich Hermann Lungkwitz was a German artist trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Dresden, Saxony in the 1840s. In 1850, Lungkwitz and his family immigrated to the United States, moving from New York to Texas, where he started in New Braunfels in 1851, but eventually moved and settled in Fredericksburg in 1852. They purchased a farm on the Pedernales River, where he and his brother-in-law, Richard Petri, also an artist, grew potatoes and began their first paintings, sketches, and lithographs of the Texas countryside around their farm. In the mid-1850s, he began sketching and painting the San Antonio area as well – particularly the missions and town scenery.

By 1859, Lungkwitz began learning the art of photography with William DeRyee and Wilhelm Thielepape. They traveled between Texas towns to take photographs and display their images in magic lantern shows, in which pictures and portraits were projected on to a screen for an audience to view.

In the last years of the Civil War, the political climate in Fredericksburg became too much for the family to handle and they moved to San Antonio in 1864. Here, with the help of Thielepape, he sold his paintings to provide a small income before opening a school for drawing and drafting. In 1866, he opened a photographic studio with Carl von Iwonski, focusing primarily on offering inexpensive portraits of the people of San Antonio, which he continued until 1870 when he was made the official photographer of the General Land Office in Austin, a position he held for four years.

By 1874, Lungkwitz turned back to his love for painting – he sketched and painted scenes all around the Austin area and taught drawing at the Jacob Bickler’s German-American Select School for Boys. He continued painting and teaching for the remainder of his life.

Hermann Lungkwitz is responsible for the majority of the images we have of the 1800s Texas Hill Country, the missions of Texas, and much of old San Antonio. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Von, Rosenberg M. German Artists of Early Texas: Hermann Lungkwitz and Richard Petri. Austin, Tex: Eakin, 1982.

McGuire, James P. Hermann Lungkwitz, Romantic Landscapist on the Texas Frontier. Austin: Published by the University of Texas Press, Austin, for the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1983.

McGuire, James P. “Lungkwitz, Karl Friedrich Hermann.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. June 15, 2010.

Object: Print


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“The Black Madonna of Czestochowa”
Unknown artist
Materials: Wood, Ink, Paint

This object is a small print representing the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. The Black Madonna of Czestochowa also known as Our Lady of Jasna Gora is a revered icon of the Virgin Mary. Today the original painting sits in Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland and has been there for six centuries. There are many stories surrounding the history of the original painting, some seem to be more fantasy than fact, and these stories have inspired many artists to create their own versions of this famous work of art. The print shown above, from the ITC collection, is one of a set of 15 different versions of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

Jasna Góra monastery by night Photo made on 2005-02-04 by Adam Kumiszcza. Imaga via Wikimedia Commons.

The original painting is said to have been painted by St. Luke and it remained in the holy land until it was discovered by St. Helena of the Cross sometime in the 4th century. After this discovery it was then moved to Constantinople, where it was proudly displayed by St. Helena’s son, the Emperor Constantine. Around 803 C.E. the painting was passed on to Prince Leo of Ruthenia. It remained in the royal palace, in present day northwestern Hungary, until the eleventh century when there was an invasion. The painting was then transferred to the Jasna Gora Monastery in Poland at the request of Ladislaus of Opole. Once the painting was in the hands of Ladislaus, the history became better documented.

In 1392 Tatars attacked the fortress at Belz and one of the arrows hit the painting lodging itself in the throat area. Fearing that the painting would be captured by the Tatars, Ladislaus fled with it to the town of Czestochowa and the painting was installed in the church. In 1430 Hussite looters attacked the church and one attacker struck the painting with his sword. The damage due to the sword and arrow can still be seen today. By 1655 Poland was overrun by Swedish forces. The monks at the monastery were able to defend the portrait during a forty day siege. Following the win against Sweden the Lady of Czestochowa became crowned as Queen of Poland.

Throughout the centuries there has been many reports of miraculous events surrounding the painting. The name Black Madonna was given due to the soot residue that discolors the painting.  The soot comes from centuries of candles burning in front of the painting. Today the feast day of the Black Madonna is celebrated on August 26. Many people make the pilgrimage to see the painting, leaving from Warsaw every year since 1711 on August 6th, the pilgrimage lasts 9 days and covers roughly 140 miles.

"Czestochowa National Shrine" in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Statue is Jan Pavel II. Near Dublin, PA. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

“Czestochowa National Shrine” in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Statue is Jan Pavel II. Near Dublin, PA. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Black Madonna is popular in places like Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. In the United States there is a National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa which is located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The shrine was founded in 1953 and features a replica of the painting. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Art, Belief, Meaning Symposium, Herman C. Du Toit, and Doris R. Dant. Art and Spirituality: The Visual Culture of Christian Faith. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 2006.

Pasierb, Janusz St, Jan Samek, Jan Michlewski, and Janusz Rosikoń. The Shrine of the Black Madonna at Czestochowa. Warsaw: Interpress Pub, 1980.

Paz, Adele. The Black Madonna of Czestochowa: A Fluid Symbol of Polish Nationality. 2005.

Object: Rock Painting


Rock Painting (reproduction)
Texan Indian
3,000-1,000 B.C.
Materials: Stone, Paint

This object is a reproduction of a rock painting found at Bonfire Shelter near Langtry, Texas. There is evidence of human presence at the site as far back as 12,000 to 14,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene era. Bonfire Shelter, and other rock shelters in the Lower Pecos area have a long history that continues to be a part of archaeological investigations today.

Bonfire Shelter

Bonfire Shelter. Photo by Wilmuth Skiles, via http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net

Bonfire Shelter’s importance was initially discovered by a high school student named Michael Collins. Collins was visiting the area with family when he went to go explore the rocky outcrop. Having read about archaeological excavations, Collins attempted to dig in a similar way to archaeological digs. After making a square hole and digging past a layer of cave dust and rock, Collins found charred bone a foot below the surface. He soon found a jaw bone that he thought belonged to a cow and took it to Glen Evans, a paleontologist and family friend. Evans determined that the bone belonged not to a cow but to a bison and the landowners began to look into an archaeological investigation.

In 1962 the area surrounding Bonfire Shelter was chosen as the future site of the Amistad Reservoir. Mark Parsons from the Texas Archaeological Salvage Project was sent in to determine if the area could be flooded. Almost immediately Parsons found artifacts, like a Montell style dart point which dated the bison bone layer to the late Archaic Period, roughly 2,500-3,000 years ago. As the investigation continued, evidence indicated that Bonfire Shelter was the site of a bison jump. Bison jumps were areas where bison were herded off a cliff and down onto a rock pile in front of the shelter where they were then butchered. Archaeologists realized that this bison jump site was the oldest known in North America as well as the furthest south.

Cave painting of horse in the Lascaux cave.

Cave painting of horse in the Lascaux cave. Image via WikiMedia Commons.

The rock art found in the Bonfire Shelter area is an example of the Lower Pecos rock art style. Rock paintings go back thousands of years. Until recently, the oldest cave paintings were found in Spain and France and dated at 30,000 to 32,000 years old. In 2014 a new discovery pushed the oldest known painting back to 35,400 years old and was found in Sulawesi, Indonesia. There are even older paintings of abstract unidentifiable objects, which have been dated to 40,000 years old.

Today, Bonfire Shelter and the surrounding area is a part of the Seminole Canyon State Park. The park is named after Lieutenant John L. Bullis’ Black Seminole Scouts who were descendants of runaway slaves. This area sports some of the oldest known rock shelters in North America as well as some of the oldest rock wall paintings or pictographs, which can be seen on guided hiking tours today. [Briana Miano edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources

Dubble, David S. and Dessamae Lorrain. Bonfire Shelter: A Stratified Bison Kill Site, Val Verde County, Texas. Austin, Texas: Texas Memorial Museum, 1968.

Lawson, Andrew J. Painted Caves: Paleolithic Rock Art in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

“Rock Art.” Texas Beyond History. May 2008.

Shafer, Harry J. and Georg Zappler. Ancient Texans: Rock Art and Lifeways along the Lower Pecos. Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, 1986.

Object: Hairwork


Hairwork Art
Mrs. John Mueller
Materials: Hair, Glass, Wood

This object is a framed wreath made of human hair inside a shadow box. This hair wreath was made by Mrs. John Mueller using the hair of several different female family members. Hair used to be a popular material in jewelry and wreath designs. Hair art can be traced all the way back to the 12th century, however it is hard to determine its exact beginnings. The keeping of human remains, both hair and other parts like bone fragments, had been practiced when creating reliquaries. Reliquaries are religious objects that contain, or claim to contain, the remains of important religious figures or important items. The practice of making and collecting hair art gained popularity during the Victorian Age.

Victorian Hair Wreath

Victorian Hair Wreath. Image via http://www.artofmourning.com

The Victorian Age took place from the early 1800s to the early 1900s. It was during this time that hair work became not only a tradition but a fashion style. Most hair works were made as memorial tokens of those who had died. However, hair from living people was also used to make mementos that represented friendship and family connections. Typically, hair art and jewelry used the hair of family members, both female and male; but close friends would also exchange hair swatches and put them in autograph books.

For families, hair works collections could be used as a form of genealogy. Genealogy is the study of family and the tracing of their lineages and history. Hair works, especially wreaths, were made to be added onto as the family tree grew. Works were also known to have the person’s name as well as their birth and death dates written alongside the different hair samples. Unlike regular family trees, hair works were much more intimate. Other works include necklaces and bracelets woven out of the hair and watch fobs, brooches, and rings with the hair mounted on top.

Victorian Hair Art in a Ring

Victorian Hair Art in a Ring. Image via http://www.jewelsdujour.com

Today, it is easy to view hair works and jewelry as something strange. However, for people who lived during the Victorian Era, hair work was an expression of love. With commercialism beginning to rise during this time, having a piece of art made from something as personal as someone’s hair was a sentimental and sincere gift. Hair works are still around today and can usually be found inside museums. Today we see a similar sentiment with the various ways people now display ashes of their loved ones. Some examples of this include urns for mantles, necklaces, and even transforming the ashes into man-made diamonds. [Briana Miano, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

DeLorme, Maureen. Mourning Art & Jewelry. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishers, 2004. 

Lutz, Deborah. Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Wukovits, John F. The Victorian Era. Detroit, Chicago: Lucent Books, 2013. 

Object: Figurine


Religious Figurine
Spanish American
Northern Mexico or southern Texas
Mid-19th Century
Materials: Wood, Paint

This object is a wooden statue of Saint Anthony, or possibly Saint Francis. Spanish statues like this were called bultos or santos and they were depictions of saints or other religious figures in Catholicism. This work of art was probably made in southern Texas or northern Mexico. A figurine like this would have been used in a home shrine, rather than in a church. Santos have a long history dating back to the Spanish Colonial period, after the Spanish had explored and conquered the New World.

Example of a santos.

Example of a santos. Photo by Marina Hayman Ph.D., via colonialmexicoinsideandout.blogspot.com

Originally, santos were made by the missionaries living in the New World. These religious men would use them as props to help teach Native Americans about Christianity, and were often given to the converts to display in their homes. However, not all santos were placed in the home, many of them were treasured items and churches proudly displayed them during religious celebrations.

This santo is depicting either Saint Anthony or Saint Francis. Saint Anthony is the patron saint of finding lost things or people. He was a part of the Franciscan order and was known for his gifted preaching which had the ability to reach people of various backgrounds. This gift was celebrated so much that he was given the title of Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946. He is usually depicted holding a book, or with Jesus as a baby.

Saint Francis is the patron saint of merchants, ecologists, and animals. He was known for abandoning his family wealth to live a simpler life of poverty. He is one of the most respected religious figures in history. The Franciscan order was also founded by him and the members of the church would later become widespread in the New World in their attempt to convert native populations. He is usually depicted with animals such as birds.

Saint Francis

Saint Francis. Image via Catholic Online

Santos are carved out of wood and then painted into the likeness of whichever saint they were supposed to represent. Today, people called santeros make the santos and other religious images. Like all art, the materials they are made from and their style reveal where they come from. Many santos are attributed to New Mexico where the tradition of making and keeping santos is still practiced. However, not many examples of early colonial santos survived to today. [Briana Miano, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Readings:

Dewhurst, C. Kurt, Betty MacDowell, and Marsha MacDowell. Religious Folk Art in America: Reflections of Faith. New York: E.P. Dutton in association with the Museum of American Folk Art, 1983.

Shalkop, Robert L., and Taylor Museum. Wood Saints: The Santos Of New Mexico. Buchheim Verlag, 1967.

Steele, Thomas J. Santos and Saints: The Religious Folk Art of Hispanic New Mexico. Santa Fe, N.M.: Ancient City Press, 1994.

Object Blog: Drawing

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“Tejanos del Siglo XVIII”
J. Cisneros
El Paso, TX
Materials: Ink/Paper

This is a pen and ink drawing entitled “Tejanos del Siglo XVIII” by artist J. Cisneros, commissioned by the Institute of Texan Cultures. The Spanish presence in Texas has a long history. Originally, Spanish emissaries ran Texas as part of New Spain from 1717-1821. They established missions and presidios to spread Christianity. They founded San Antonio in 1718, which was their most successful settlement in Texas. In fact, what we know as The Alamo is actually the remains of Mission San Antonio Valero. The Spanish population in Texas at the time was made up of only male settlers from Spain, so by the 1730’s they started to send for their families to come to the new world. From there, women also began marrying into the existing community.

Traditionally, Spanish policy did not allow foreigners into their territories. Although they permitted individuals to settle in some areas in the 1790’s, the Spanish were concerned about the potential danger of Anglo-Americans to inspire political conflict. However, in an effort to help protect their lands from hostile Plains Indians, the Spanish started to allow settlers from the United States into Texas. In January of 1821, the Spanish gave permission to the first Anglo-American settler, Moses Austin, to bring with him a group of Anglo-Americans to build homes along the Brazos River. After he passed away in 1821, the Spanish allowed his son Stephen F. Austin to assume his fathers property and bring more Anglo-American settlers with him. Anglo-American immigration into the southwest was largely male and the majority moved into Texas between 1821 and 1835. The extremely low cost of land encouraged them to settle in Texas. Up to 4,605 acres of land could be purchased for 40 cents an acre. The immigration of Anglo-Americans to Texas was complicated since both Spanish and Anglos were highly suspicious of one another. Settlers tend to believe their own culture was superior to others. They clung closely to their original cultures as they moved to Texas. Nonetheless, as Anglo-American men started to marry into the Spanish community, they began to integrate the two cultures.

Sketch of the Alamo in 1845 via tshaonline

Sketch of the Alamo in 1845 via tshaonline

Life for Spanish women in Texas at this time was very different from the life of Anglo-American women in the United States. Due to Spanish law, Spanish women in Texas had a number of legal rights, including the right to be party to lawsuits and the ability to act as witnesses at trial. A woman could manage her own property if she signed a declaration that she was responsible for her own actions. Women were equally able to inherit property as their male counterparts. They could write their own wills and act as executors of others’ wills, all without needing the legal permission of their husbands. After Spanish women were married, however, they lost a few rights, including the ability to accuse someone of a crime. Yet, they still maintained some property rights after marriage. After death or at the end of a marriage, the law required a wife’s land be returned to her or her descendants. Any property held in the name of both a husband and wife required the permission of both parties before the land could be sold. Anglo-American women in the United States had far fewer legal rights. When Anglo-Americans migrated to Texas, they agreed to abide by Spanish law.

The Spanish ended their rule of Texas in 1821 when Mexico gained independence. When it came to governing Texas, Mexico decided to maintain Spanish law regarding the rights of women. Though they no longer rule Texas, signs of the Spanish occupation can still be seen in the culture and cities of today. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Cantrell, Gregg. Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

Chipman, Donald E. Spanish Texas, 1519-1821. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

Gauderman, Kimberly. Women’s Lives in Colonial Quito: Gender, Law, and Economy in Spanish America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.

Habig, Marion Alphonse. Spanish Texas Pilgrimage: The Old Franciscan Missions and Other Spanish Settlements of Texas, 1632-1821. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1990.

McCaleb, Walter Flavius. The Spanish Missions of Texas. San Antonio, Tex: Naylor Co, 1954.

Object: Drawing


Jack “Herc” Ficklen
20th century
Materials: paper, ink

Known as one of the greatest commanders in U.S. history, this object is a drawing of Dwight D. Eisenhower also known as “Ike.” Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas in 1890 and would go on to be the 34th president of the United States. He is also the last president to be born in the 19th century. Dwight Eisenhower was the son of David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth (Stover) Eisenhower. The family moved to Abilene, Kansas  in 1892 and Dwight considered this his hometown. He attended Abilene High School  and graduated in 1909, but was not able to attend college due to financial reasons. Ike’s brother also wanted to attend college so the brothers made a deal that one would work while the other attended college. After his first year Ike’s brother wanted a second year so, at the urging of a friend, Ike applied to the naval academy because no tuition was required. Ike requested consideration for West Point or Annapolis from his U.S. Senator and although he won the entrance exam competition, he was too old for Annapolis.  Eisenhower accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy of West Point in 1911, and graduated in 1915. Following graduation Eisenhower was stationed in San Antonio, Texas where he met his wife Mamie Geneva Doud.

1024px-Eisenhower_d-dayDuring World War I Ike served with infantry in both Texas and Georgia. He was denied an overseas assignment and was instead placed with a new tank corps and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. During this time Ike showed exceptional organizational skill and was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. However, he was disappointed because he did not see combat. He would however, have a big role to play oversea during World War II. Following WWI Eisenhower served as an aide to Douglas MacArthur and was stationed in the Philippines until 1939, right before the Nazi invasion of Poland. After the attack of Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was called to D.C. to be a planning officer. He would command the Allied Forces landing in North Africa known as Operation Torch. He was also Supreme Commander on D-Day of the troops invading France, this was known as Operation Overload.

After the war Eisenhower became the President of Columbia University in New York City. However, he was then commissioned by President Truman to take command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe also known as NATO. In 1952 he was persuaded to run for President of the United States with the support of President Truman. He resigned his command at NATO and ran as a Republican, using the campaign slogan “I like Ike.” I_like_IkeEisenhower won the Presidency by a landslide becoming the 34th President of the United States. In November of 1956 he would be elected for his second term. Throughout his Presidency Eisenhower had to face issues dealing with ending the Korean War, containing Communism, and try to strengthen relations with the Soviet Union, as well as the civil rights issues present in United States. As President he was able to ensure a secure economy and kept many New Deal and Fair Deal programs. Perhaps his most enduring project was the creation of the Interstate Highway System, which was responsible for 41,000 miles of roads across the country. After the launch of Sputnik, Eisenhower launched a campaign to support space exploration, science and higher education. This would result in the creation of NASA.

Eisenhower left the White House in 1961 and although he received criticism from both sides he had favorable approval ratings overall. He retired to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with his wife. After a long illness Dwight D. Eisenhower passed away on March 28, 1969. Today he is remembered for his role in WWII, ending the Korean War, and the creation of the Interstate Highway system. Throughout the United States multiple memorials can be seen dedicated in his name, and his farmhouse can still be visited. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources: 

Ambrose, Stephen E. Eisenhower. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Eisenhower, Dwight D., and Robert H. Ferrell. The Eisenhower Diaries. New York: Norton, 1981.

Eisenhower, Dwight D., Alfred D. Chandler, Louis Galambos, and Daun Van Ee. The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970.

Mieczkowski, Yanek. Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

Object: Pamphlet

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Mexican & American
San Antonio, TX
Materials: Paper, ink

In April 1968 the city of San Antonio celebrated its 250th anniversary by having a 6 month long International Exposition. The exposition was part of the World’s Fair, World Exposition or Universal Exposition as they were known. This International Exposition would be the first held in the southwestern United States. The exposition became known as Hemisfair ’68 and the theme was “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas.” The exposition hosted about 30 national pavilions from all over the world. This object is pamphlet for the Mexican Pavilion, one of the many pavilions at the exposition.


Logo of HemisFair ’68

The tradition of World Fairs or expositions can be traced back to France where national expositions were often held. These expositions eventually led to the French Industrial Exposition in Paris 1844. After this fair, countries around the world such as United Kingdom started having their own expositions. The first major international exposition was held in London and has been called “The Great Exhibition.”  It was this exposition that set the precedent for the expositions which would go in to be called World Fairs.

The character of World Fairs has changed throughout the years and can be categorized into three eras, industrialization 1851-1938 , cultural exchange 1939-1987 and nation branding 1988-Present. Hemisfair ’68 would have fallen into cultural exchange era. With the theme being “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas” Hemisfair aimed to show San Antonio’s ethnically mixed cultural heritage and placed an emphasis on the city becoming a future center of international commerce and cultural exchange between the United States and Latin America. With almost thirty pavilions at Hemisfair ’68 the Mexican Pavilion was one of the biggest.med_res

However, there were a few issues that had to be resolved before Mexico agreed to attend the fair. Mexico had felt insulted and felt that the creators of the HemisFair were competing with Mexico. This was because Mexico was hosting the Olympic Games being held from October 12-October 27 of 1968, which would have coincided with HemisFair. Mexico threatened to not attend unless the dates of the fair were changed. HemisFair was then rescheduled to April 6th through October 6th, so as not to conflict with the Mexico City Games. The Mexican pavilion was “divided into several areas displaying Mexico’s rich history through art, artifacts and multimedia.” Some of the most memorable features of the Mexican pavilion were giant Olmec heads, a floating stage, a Mexican restaurant, and the many artists that could be seen performing throughout the day.

When Hemisfair ’68 came to an end, many of the structures were taken down.  However, after many world fairs some structures are left standing and become iconic landmarks for the city. For example the Seattle space needle, and Eiffel Tower are two structures that remained after a world fair and are still popular landmarks today. In San Antonio there are several structures that are still in use today including the Tower of the Americas, The Institute of Texan Cultures,  and the Mexico Pavilion which is now known as the Mexican Cultural Institute.

Floating stage at the Mexican pavilion.

Floating stage at the Mexican pavilion.

Today the Mexican Cultural Institute is still in the same location it was in in 1968. The structure has since been remodeled and expanded. The institute hosts art exhibits, music concerts, plays, and academic events that showcase Mexican culture. The institute has 4 galleries of changing exhibits and an auditorium, and admission to the institute is free to the public. Although, it has been nearly 50 years since HemisFair ’68 the impact it had on San Antonio can still be seen today. With the city of San Antonio’s 300th anniversary just around the corner in 2018, and the current revitalization at HemisFair Park well underway, it will be exciting to see what celebrations the city has in store to mark this milestone. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Fisher, Lewis F. Saving San Antonio: The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage. Lubbock, Tex: Texas Tech University Press, 1996.

Holmesly, Sterlin. Hemisfair ’68 and the Transformation of San Antonio. San Antonio, Tex: Maverick, 2003.

Mattie, Erik. World’s fairs. New York City, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

San Antonio. Sculpture, Murals & Fountains at HemisFair ’68: An Anthology of Contemporary Art from the Works of One Hundred and Sixteen Artists from Twenty-Nine Nations and Six Ontinents. San Antonio: San Antonio Fair Inc, 1968.


Object: Cut Paper Work

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“Papel Picado”
20th Century
Materials: Paper

Every year from September 15 through October 15 Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States. The month commemorates “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” In San Antonio the influence of Mexican culture is prominent and can be seen throughout the city. Historic Market Square in San Antonio is one of the best places around town to see decorations, art, and try delicious food.  This object is what is known as papel picado which translates to punched or perforated paper. Usually seen at various Mexican and Mexican-American celebrations such as birthday parties, Mexican Independence Day and Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.

The history of papel picado can be traced back to the Aztecs who used the bark of mulberry and fig trees to make a rough paper called amatl or amate. Amatl was used during rituals to create flags and banners that would then be used to decorate temples, streets, and homes. A popular ritual involved having the amatl paper sprayed with liquid rubber in a ritual having to do with the rain gods.  Amatl paper was popular until the Spanish conquest when the production of amatl paper was banned and only European paper was allowed.

Papel picado tools

Papel picado tools

Papel picado can be made using a number of different techniques. A simple way of making papel picado is to fold tissue paper and cut it with scissors. This is usually the same way paper snowflake decorations are made. However, trained craftsmen use tools such as awls, chisels and special blades to cut stacks of paper, cutting as many as 50 sheets at a time. These men have been doing the job for generations and can produce complex designs on the paper. The designs can include flowers, skeletons, foliage, birds, angels, crosses, historic figures, or words. The borders usually also have pattern that is either scalloped, straight, or zig-zagged.

Dia De Los Muertos Alter

Dia De Los Muertos Alter

Today papel picado is very popular during Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. This holiday is mainly celebrated in Mexico but other forms of this holiday are celebrated around the world. In communities in the United States with Mexican-American residents, such as San Antonio, the holiday is extremely popular. The holiday focuses on families getting together to pray and remember friends and family who have passed away. Traditions for the holiday include making altars. These altars often include papel picado along with photographs and food offerings. Many of these offering include objects that deceased enjoyed during life. So the next time you are in San Antonio’s Historic Market Square be on the lookout for these colorful works of art.  [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Newson, Linda A., and John King. Mexico City Through History and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 2009.

Pomar, María Teresa. El Día De Los Muertos: The Life of the Dead in Mexican Folk Art : Essays. Fort Worth, Tex: Fort Worth Art Museum, 1987.

University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. The Mexican Texans. [San Antonio]: [The Institute], 1971.

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