Artstor, in collaboration with Douglas Massey, has recently added 170 images of Mexican retablos to the Digital Library. Retablos are small, colorful oil paintings made on tin and offered as votives of thanks for miracles granted and favors bestowed. Massey photographed retablos dating from 1912 to 1996, which appeared in Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States (University of Arizona Press, 1995), a book co-authored with Jorge Durand. These images represent modern expressions of the traditional Mexican folk art genre. The bright palette and vibrant style that characterizes this art form later influenced the work of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

In Miracles on the Border, Massey and Durand used the images of retablos to study the social conditions surrounding Mexican migration, conducting statistical analyses of the age, gender, geographic origins, and eventual destinations of the migrants who commissioned the votive paintings. However, the retablos are also inherently interesting as visual documents, vividly illustrating the subjects of greatest concern to migrants.

To view the Mexican Retablos Collection (Douglas Massey): go to the Artstor Digital Library, browse by collection, and click “Mexican Retablos Collection (Douglas Massey);” or enter the Keyword Search: massey retablos.

For more detailed information about this collection, visit the Mexican Retablos Collection (Douglas Massey) page.

Related collections on Latin American Art: