Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


History of Art


Traditionally in the history of Mexican art, the nineteenth century is overlooked and generally categorized as transitional and inconsequential. As a result of political and economic instability, the arts of the nineteenth century have been considered secondary in comparison with the production of prior periods, such as colonial Mexican art, or movements afterwards, such as Mexican modernism. In my dissertation I hope to demonstrate how a little recognized nineteenth-century genre, costumbrismo, played a significant role in the construction of racial and social types and contributed to modern notions of Mexican identity.

Costumbrismo, which manifested itself through the visual and literary arts, was a movement in Spain and Latin America that sought to capture the customs, costumes, and traditions of everyday people and everyday life. I argue that costumbrismo played an important role in the creation of popular types and made a vital contribution to how Mexicans saw themselves and how other nations saw them. I believe works by both foreign and local artists must be seen together as interweavings of ideas and stereotypes that informed and clarified one another. Costumbrista artists desired to capture the corporeal physicality and presence of the Mexican people through their emphasis on naturalistic depiction and attention to detail. However, this does not imply that what was produced was an objective, rational representation. On the contrary, costumbrista artists created personal, constructed portrayals of Mexican life that were often romanticized and politicized.


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