José Aragón

 

ARAGÓN, JOSÉ
(working dates c. 1820–c. 1835)
was a northern New Mexican
santero,
a painter, and probably a sculptor of Catholic religious images. His origins are unknown; no documentary evidence supports hisfamily’s traditional belief that he emigrated from Spain to New Mexico, about 1820. By 1821 he had begun painting
retablos
(devotional panels of saints) and other religious figures, in Hispanic villages of northern New Mexico, and he continued to do so until about 1835. José Aragón was one of the few nineteenth-century
santeros
to sign and date his paintings. In some cases he also gave the name of the place where they were painted, most often the village of Chamisal. He may havelived in Chamisal or may have been an itinerant
santero,
temporarily working in different villages to fill the need for depictions of
santos
among the residents. In someof his inscriptions he states that the piece was painted in his
escultería
(sculpture workshop), which suggests that he was also a sculptor. While there is no further documentary evidence of his work as a sculptor, it is likely that
bultos
(polychrome wooden sculptures) were carved and painted by him or under his direction, andseveral surviving pieces are attributed to him on stylistic grounds. At least two
bultos
have figures of angels painted on them in his style.José Aragón often worked directly from engravings of Mexican or European origin, in some cases even copying the lengthy prayers that appeared on the prints. Thesubjects depicted by Aragón do not necessarily suggest a direct influence from Europe, because most of them are saints popular in Mexico and New Mexico: NuestraSeñora de Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Refugio, Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos, Cristo Crucificado, La Santísima Trinidad, San José, San Isidro, SantaBarbara, and others. These prints, which may have been provided to him by priests or other literate settlers, were done in the naturalistic academic styles of the period(late Baroque and Neoclassic), and his paintings tend to be more naturalistic than those of most other New Mexican
santeros
of the period, but it is a simplifiednaturalism that emphasizes the saintly qualities of the personage depicted.José Aragón had several followers, who were probably apprentices in his workshop. The most important of them is the Arroyo Hondo Painter, so named for thelarge altar screen of twelve panels that he painted in the church of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Arroyo Hondo, near Taos, New Mexico.
See also
José Rafael Aragón; Bultos; Religious Folk Art; Retablos; Santeros; Sculpture, Folk
.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Boyd, E.
Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico.
Santa Fe, N. Mex., 1974.Wroth, William.
Christian Images in Hispanic New Mexico: The Taylor Museum Collection of Santos.
Colorado Springs, Colo., 1982