One of the first things I did when I started Rancho Gordo was to offer free calendars every year featuring almost exclusively the art of Jesús Helguera. I love the idealized, often policially incorrect, images of post-revolutionary Mexico. There are some real problems but there's a clear sense of Helguera's patriotism, and loads of campy good fun.
I asked Karla from our customer service department to do some research on Helguera so we all could know a little more about him. She used an uncredited book I have, Jesus Helguera (1989, Galas de Mexico) for much of the information. - Steve Sando
The Jesús Helguera Story
by Karla A. Moreno
Renowned Mexican painter Jesús Enrique Emilio de la Helguera Espinoza was born on May 28, 1910 in Chihuahua, and spent his early childhood in Mexico City and Cordoba, Veracruz. When Jesús was 7, his Spanish-born economist father moved the family to Ciudad Real, Spain, to escape the effects of the Mexican Revolution.
During his elementary school years, Jesús began to develop his lifelong interest in art. He created murals with scenes from literature, illustrated his history lessons, and painted large-scale rural maps. Even at a young age, his teachers recognized his devotion to painting; one instructor made him responsible for his school’s art class at the age of 9. He completed his high school studies at the Escuela de Artes y Oficios in Madrid. At the age of 14, he was admitted to the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes, and later studied at the famous Academia de San Fernando.Helguera met Julia Gonzales Llanos in an art class; she served as a model and inspiration for many of his paintings. The couple married and had two children, Fernando and Maria Luisa. Contemporaries described Helguera as outgoing, sincere, and affable — a loving husband and protective father.
Helguera worked in Madrid and Barcelona as an illustrator for books, magazines, and comics for many years. In 1938, due to the Spanish Civil War and its resulting economic issues, Helguera returned to Veracruz. Capitalizing on the current vogue for mural-style work, the tobacco company Cigarrera La Moderna hired Helguera to produce artwork for its cigar boxes and calendars. His works during this era display his fascination with both indigenous mysticism and Catholic religion, and feature an idealized, romantic aesthetic. His heroic images of Aztec royalty, smoldering volcanoes, and smoky-eyed women inspired generations of imitators.
In 1940, Helguera painted his most famous work, La Leyenda de los Volcanes (The Legend of the Volcanoes), inspired by Aztec stories of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. In 1954, he joined Imprenta Galas de Mexico, a large printer of calendar artwork. At Galas, he was known for spending long stretches in his studio, painting whenever inspiration found him, regardless of the hour.
Helguera worked until his death in December 1971. His last painting, Las Manañitas — showing a gallant caballero serenading a radiant maiden perched on the sill of a bougainvillea-covered window — now hangs in one of Mexico City’s leading cultural sites, the Museo Soumaya of Fundación Carlos Slim.
Helguera was largely unrecognized by fine-arts culture in his lifetime; not until 1985 did he finally received formal recognition from Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. Throughout the years, Helguera’s works have been broadly pirated, reproduced (not always faithfully) on ceramics, stone, metal, and wood. Millions of copies of Helguera’s works have hung proudly in countless Mexican homes, both in Mexico and in the United States, and for thousands, through the annual Rancho Gordo calendar.
One of our most frequently asked questions is, "When do you release the calendars?"
Unless there's some weird problem, we start shipping calendars with all of our holiday orders starting the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year (2021), we may start earlier because if anticipated crazy shipping times. We keep including them in all of our packages until they run out, generally in February but some years it can be as early as December. First come, first served! - Steve