William Spratling: Sketches from Mexico

March 4-26, 2004

William Spratling (1900-1967), artist, author, entrepeneur, and former professor of architecture at Tulane University, is most widely known for his work as a designer and silversmith who revitalized the Mexican silver industry beginning in the early 1930s.

Spratling's sumptuous designs of jewelry and household artifacts enriched a longstanding Mexican tradition of crafting silver, and drew inspiration from a variety of sources, both European and non-Western. Most evident in Spratling's designs is the presence of native Mesoamerican iconographies, particularly those of Mixtec-Puebla origin.

Spratling's arrival in Taxco (Mexico) in the late 1920s coincided with the post-revolutionary movement in that country known as mexicanismo, a strong nationalistic impulse that emphasized native cultural expressions rather than European traditions. Spratling's interest in Mexican art and culture had developed here in New Orleans during the 1920s, where his friendship with archaeologists Franz Blom and Oliver LaFarge, of the newly founded Department of Middle American Research at Tulane University, introduced him to what was to become a lifelong passion for native American aesthetic design.

The Latin American Library is pleased to present this exhibition on William Spratling to coincide with the "Maestros de Plata" exhibit at Newcomb Gallery, curated by Dr. Penny Morrill. The main gallery of The Latin American Library features newly-acquired original drawings by William Spratling and Margot van Voorhies Carr, also a designer from Taxco. The large wall display case in the lobby exhibits some of Spratling's published works, sources of inspiration, and aspects of his life in New Orleans and at Tulane University.

William Spratling: Exhibit Poster