Written by Susan Toomey Frost
In the mid-1930s, Luis Marquez (1899-1978) colorized his dramatic photographs into postcards that lie between two major periods in Mexican postcard making: black and white real photos and color chromes. Before color film was readily available in Mexico, Marquez' technique made his postcard images appear as if they had been shot in color. (Although KODACHROME slide film was introduced in 1935, AGFACOLOR print film in 1936, and KODACOLOR in 1942, Mexican postcards do not reflect the common use of color film until the 1950s.)
Hand-tinted photographs of Luis Marquez were published in the mid-1930s by Eugenio Fischgrund in a series of 96 postcards. Fischgrund's firm, Editorial de Arte, specialized in artistic postcards and Christmas cards, books on Mexican folklore, and publishing such prominent artists as Miguel Covarrubias, Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo.
Marquez enlarged, hand-tinted and marketed many of his prints as art photographs, and it was these hand-tinted images that were reproduced for the postcards series. As examples, Marquez colorized the black and white printings of "Tipo Huichol" and "Aguadores." The original black-and-white prints and their colorized versions are shown below, along with Marquez's signature.
The German-born photographer Hugo Brehme, a leading maker of real photo postcards for decades, also hand-tinted some of his photographs, but none of them were published as postcards.
Marquez' photographs rarely appear as real photo postcards. The only examples found so far are sepia-toned real photos that were made into maximum cards. In the mid-1930s, a collector from Papantla, Veracruz, affixed postage stamps to Marquez' real photo postcards that are closely related to the stamps, which were then carefully postmarked. The four resulting maximum cards, showing women from Yalalag with their counterparts on Mexican stamps, are shown in the first row below:
The second row above displays four photographs that are included in a Fischgrund series printed in halftone. The 3-1/2" by 5-1/2" postcards are printed on smooth off-white paper that has a deckle edge. The series contains at least 40 images, and although no photographer is credited, these four can be attributed to Marquez.
Luis Marquez gained international recognition when four of his black and white photographs appeared in the May 1937 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Some 17 Marquez photographs in black and white are included in MEXICO IN PICTURES, published by Editorial Fischgrund in 1953. By far the largest presentation of black and white photos appeared in 1954 in Fischgrund's MEXICAN FOLKLORE: 100 Photographs by Luis Marquez, with a text by Justino Fernandez. In 1978 Mobil Oil of Mexico published EL MEXICO DE LUIS MARQUEZ, which was additionally printed in English under the title LUIS MARQUEZ' TIMELESS MEXICO. The book lavishly displays the photographs in full-page layouts, both in halftone and in color.
Hugo Brehme never made a transition to color film, as did Marquez. The covers of MEXICAN FOLKLORE reflect that Marquez was using color film in 1954, the same year that Brehme died. All of the photographs within the Marquez book, however, were shot in black and white film. Both of the cover images shown below were made into "Mexichrome" postcards that are larger than the standard 3-1/2" by 5-1/2" size. Marquez, therefore, led the way into 4" by 6" modern chromes long before they became the size commonly sold today.
Marquez completely controlled the content and composition of his portraits. The persons described as "typical" appear to be professional models, and not people dressed in their own clothes. In fact, he literally dressed the models in costumes that he himself collected. Twelve of these regional traditional dresses appear in a series of postcards and a portfolio edited by Manuel Quesada Bradi: TRAJES REGIONALES MEXICANOS DE LA COLECCION DE LUIS MARQUEZ (Cuernavaca: Ediciones Singulares, 1970). Marquez also collected native crafts as props, and he assembled and photographed them as still lifes. Many of Marquez' composed scenes appear "dressed" much like movie sets are created. His compositions are so cinematographic as to look like still shots from films. If they were accompanied by a script and swelling music on a soundtrack, the images could leap into motion. [For more more information about Marquez and his ties to the Mexican cinema -- but no mention of his postcards! -- see the special issue entitled "El imaginario de Luis Marquez" in the journal ALQUIMIA (#10, September-December 2000).]
Most of the images in the following postcard series are printed full-frame within their 3-1/2" by 5-1/2" size. Some of the images have white borders. The postcard back contains a great deal of information, and the title often appears in dual translation.
Because color images take so long to download, the complete series of 96 postcards has been divided into two pages. Check out the following links to view the known images in the series.