Julio Ruelas

Julio Ruelas, “Critica”, 1906, Etching, 19 x 15 cm, Museo National de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico

Born on June 21, 1870, in Zacatecas, Julio Ruelas was a Mexican graphic artist, printmaker and painter. He was one of the pioneers of Mexican Modernism and a significant representative of Symbolism in the country. 

In 1885m Ruelas enrolled in the National School of Fine Arts and later at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. He traveled to Germany in 1892, studying at the Academy of Arts in Karlsruhe, where he developed a serious interest in the works of Swiss Symbolist painter Arnold Boeklin. During his stay in Germany, Ruelas was introduced to the Romantic art movement, a style whose emphasis on emotion and the glorification of nature and the past would have a deep influence upon his works. 

After his return to Mexico in 1895, Ruelas published his works in the extremely influential symbolist publication, “Revista Moderna”, founded by poet Jssús E Valenzuela, and became its principal illustrator. In 1904, Ruelas traveled to Paris, perfecting his etching techniques, and then briefly onto Belgium to observe its symbolist movement’s works.

Julio Ruelas spent the last three years of his life in Paris. He died on September 16, 1907 from tuberculosis at the age of thirty-seven. His works are on display In the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico and in the Francisco Goitia Museum in his home city of Zacatecas, among other collections. 

Julio Ruelas’ 1906 etching “Critica” is from a series of personal portrait etchings that he produced. On the artist’s head sits a fantastic being with bird feet, two small arms and a body of chicken without feathers. The animal has a pair of large breasts that can be seen behind its arms. The creature, wearing an elegant, fashionable hat for upper-class men of the late 20th century, appears to be about to pierce the artist’s head with its beak. The grotesque feeling of this etching reflects Ruelas’ aversion to the unpleasant criticism being given to his symbolist works at this point in time.

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