University of Illinois at Chicago

“Corazon de Lumbre, Alma de Nieve”: Sentimentality and Nationalism through La Leyenda de los Volcanes

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posted on 2020-08-01, 00:00 authored by Mariela Espinoza-Leon
This thesis looks specifically to understand why Jesus Helguera’s 1940 painting of the Leyenda de los Volcanes was so successful in the promotion of nationalistic sentiments. Although Helguera’s images has been consistently present in the consciousness of Mexican identity since the mid-20th century, the paintings confinement as ‘kitsch art’ have obscured it from an in depth critical lens. Due to the image’s confinement to kitsch, most writings do not adequately address how sentimentality became a powerful tool in creating the nation and its early origins. To understand Helguera’s work, I trace the lineage of the tale and the presence of the volcanoes in artistic practices from Pre-Columbian art to the mid-20th century, the height of the Mexican Calendar movement. This is not to imply a progression of aesthetics or to show any sort of ‘progress’ in aesthetics or art forms, but to display the rooted influences that Helguera was drawing rom. Through the lens of sentimentality, nationalism, and meaning of landscape, I explain how the image of the volcanoes has been used in the canon of Mexican history, morphing at pivotal points in history and how the use of the anthropomorphic Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl situate viewers in both their time and space within a rooted Mexican history. In other words, how the sentimental art of Helguera created a ‘proper’ viewer that identities themselves as a child of the Mexican nation.



Ortega, Emmanuel


Ortega, Emmanuel


Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Masters

Degree name

MA, Master of Arts

Committee Member

Finegold, Andrew Becker, Catherine Cosentino, Delia

Submitted date

August 2020

Thesis type



  • en