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Velasco, José María (1840–1912)

Velasco, José María (1840–1912)

José María Velasco (b. 6 July 1840; d. 26 August 1912), Mexican painter. Velasco, a major landscape painter, is the foremost Mexican painter of the nineteenth century. He was the favorite pupil of the Italian landscapist Eugenio Landesio, who taught at the Academia de San Carlos between 1855 and 1873. Velasco succeeded him in 1875 and remained on the staff for the rest of his life. In Excursion in the Environs of Mexico City (1866), an early work, small figures from different walks of life, against a background of enormous trees and a distant landscape, suggest historical and social commentary. Velasco never ignored the human presence in landscape, but with time that presence became less anecdotal. In 1873 he executed the first of several large canvases titled Valley of Mexico, his most famous works.

Although he painted elsewhere in the country (Oaxaca, Veracruz) and produced views of buildings, self-portraits, and portraits, the broad vistas and the clear light of central Mexico were Velasco's favorite subjects. In The Bridge of Metlac (1881) he celebrates the modernity of the age of Porfirio Díaz by depicting a train moving through a tropical landscape. Hacienda of Chimalpa (1893), a vast, simplified landscape in silvery tonalities, is his most important late work.

Although Velasco traveled to international exhibitions where his paintings received prizes (Philadelphia in 1876, Paris in 1889, and Chicago in 1893), his style was hardly affected by these contacts. Velasco had a strong scientific bent, and he executed many drawings and paintings of plants, animals, and archaeological objects and sites for scientific institutions and publications, as well as meticulous studies of rocks and vegetation.

See alsoArt: The Nineteenth Century; Díaz, Porfirio.


José María Velasco, 1840–1912, catalog of Philadelphia Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum exhibition (1944).

Carlos Pellicer, José María Velasco: Pinturas, dibujos, acuarelas (1970).

Additional Bibliography

Altamirano Piolle, María Elena. National Homage, José María Velasco, 1840–1912. Mexico City: Amigos del Museo Nacional del Arte, 1993.

Moyssén L., Xavier. José María Velasco: El paisajista. Mexico City: Círculo de Arte, 1997.

                                        Clara Bargellini

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