September 29, 2010

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Nearly two centuries after many unknown artists painted extraordinarily beautiful expressions of religious devotion, well known to the common people of 19th century Mexico, their works are still being admired today.

"Sacred Images: Nineteenth Century Retablo Paintings of Mexico" opened its display at Cal State San Bernardino's Robert V. Fullerton Art Museum on Sept. 18, and will continue through Jan. 30, 2011. A reception for the show will be held Oct. 9 from 4-6 p.m.

The exhibit consists of more than 30 Mexican retablo paintings on tin-coated iron sheets. Today, these small, narrative, religious paintings are seen as valuable historic documents of the more recent past. They are traditional images made to give thanks for miracles or favors, including the curing of injuries and the saving from disasters or accidents.

Soul of Mary (Alma de Maria)
Spanish retablo painting, ca. 19th-century

Curated by Louis Fox, all the paintings selected for the exhibition come from the local private collection of Joe and Rae Neumen. Initially located behind or near an altar, such images were frequently used by the common people in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Because of large quantities, the older votive paintings started to be replaced by newer ones and gradually became collected by private individuals.

Retablo paintings became one of the most vital sources of influence to many prominent Mexican artists of the early 20th century, including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Roberto Montenegro. In modern times, it has continued in the form of religious merchandise such as calendars, holy pictures, home altars and various devotional trinkets.

Established in 1996, the Robert V. Fullerton Art Museum is a nationally recognized museum, accredited by the American Association of Museums. Located on the campus of Cal State San Bernardino, the RVF Art Museum has accumulated a permanent collection of nearly 1,200 objects focusing on Egyptian antiquities, ceramics and contemporary art.

General admission is free. The suggested donation is $3. Parking is $5 per vehicle.

Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday. For more information on the art museum, call 909-537-7373 or visit the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art website at