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In search of Salvador Novo

14 June 2012

Who, when, where?

Well, this is a tad embarrassing. I know  this is was sure this was a portrait of the Mexican poet, dramatist (and over-the-top drama queen) Salvador Novo from the late 1920s, when he was young and good looking (he aged disgracefully).  Seems I was wrong… it is a Mexican painting, but the subject (and the artist) is Emilio Baz Viaud … Autoretrato del artista adolescente, 1935, to be found in the Collección Andrès Blaisten, at the Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco .

I know I swiped it from some on-line source (misidentified as a portrait of Novo) , but a search of that indispensable resource for tracking down obscure on-line images, tineye.com only turns up my original post on bullfighting, machismo, The Village People and Salvador Novo (the kind of posts that are much more fun to write, than yakking on about elections). But I did manage to find the same picture on the Colección Voces que dejan Huellas site, which lets you listen to (and download) recordings of various writers and poets.  Never having actually heard Novo read before, it’s kind of surprise to find that his spoken voice doesn’t fit his image … but then again, as I wrote, Novo’s life work was subverting our perceptions of machismo and effeminacy.

I had an email today from Casey Kittrell, at the University of Texas Press.

The University of Texas Press is publishing a translation of Novo’s autobiography, La estatua de sal, next year and we are searching for possible cover images.  You posted a terrific piece a few years about Novo and machismo that included a portrait of Novo that I have not seen before.

I’m flattered of course, that the editor read this site, and that he liked what I had to say about Novo (… and The Village People… and bullfighters… oh, and Ernest Hemingway, too). But more to the point, he is considering this apparently obscure portrait of Novo as cover art. It’s a little frustrating in the best of times to be trying to work on preparing books for publications from out here in Mexican provincia. But at least I’m somewhere within the reach of civilization, not out in the barbaric backwater of Austin, Texas (ok, I’m kidding… I’ve been to Austin… it’s almost civilized).   Still, it’s not like I just can’t walk over to the Palacio de Bellas Artes or Museo San Carlos, or take the metrobus down to UNAM  (or up to Tlatelolco, where I would have seen this hanging on a wall) from Mazatlán.

There is a fairly well known portrait of the young Novo by Manuel Rodriguez Lozano (Retrato de Salvador Novo (El taxi), 1924… the on-line image is not for download) at the Museo Nacional de Arte and ask who the OTHER artist who did a portrait of the then-controversial and “morally dubious” poet as a young man.  But this one?  Apparently it’s not completely unknown, just unknown to me, to the University of Texas and to the Internet.

Which doesn’t mean someone out there doesn’t know who the artist is, or where the original of this portrait might be.     Help!

Many thanks, and a doff of the sombrero, to Professor Stephen Dove of Centre College (Danville, KY) .

One Comment leave one →
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