Museum Home Past Exhibitions Mexico: From Empire to Revolution

February 24–May 20, 2001 at the Getty Center

Exhibit Photograph

From Empire to Revolution explores Mexico's legacy of empires, intervention, and revolution. It also looks at the importance of photographs as both historical documents and instruments used to shape public perception of the events of the day and to encourage tourism and economic investment. Drawn from the Getty Research Institute's Special Collections, the exhibition includes cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards, commemorative albums, postcards, and documentary and press photographs. Most were shot by non-Mexican photographers whose viewpoint as foreigners shaped both their own and their viewers' understanding of the people, events, and places depicted in their photographs.

Part I of From Empire to Revolution begins in 1857. The first section focuses on the short-lived empire of the Austrian Archduke Maximilian in Mexico between 1864 and 1867. The photographs chronicle Maximilian's attempt to legitimize his rule as well as his ultimate failure to do so, as seen in the photographs documenting his execution and its aftermath. The second section of Part I explores the work of European expeditionary photographers who went to the remote reaches of Mexico amid political upheaval to document the pre-hispanic ruins left by past empires.

Part II of this exhibition begins in the 1870s and addresses the use of photography to document the outward manifestations of material progress achieved during the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876 -1911.) The focus of the exhibition changes dramatically in the second section, which depicts the violent explosion of the Mexican revolution in 1910. The revolution submerges the country in civil war for more than a decade. Included in this part of the exhibition are images of Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, and Pancho Villa.