Linares’ work became popular worldwide and continues to be produced today. His creations are sold in galleries and museums throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid Spain and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, England.
In addition to his art career, he has also been a professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) since 1994. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Pedro Linares began his professional career as a maker of effigies known as “Judas figures”, traditionally made of cardboard during the Catholic Easter season. In the 1920s, he worked for several Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera, Francisco Zúñiga and José Clemente Orozco. During this period, he became acquainted with the artist Frida Kahlo, whom he married in 1935. In 1936, he moved to Mexico City where he joined the Academia de San Carlo School of Fine Arts. His work was exhibited at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the National Palace Museum and the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo. While working as a painter, sculptor and ceramist, he continued to make effigies of religious figures.
In 1948, while living in Cuernavaca, Morelos, he had a severe bout of peritonitis. As a consequence of this illness, he experienced a state of altered consciousness and fell into a coma. When he awoke, he found himself surrounded by animals of different species, including birds, reptiles, insects and even fish. These animals told him that they had come to save him because they knew that he was an animal lover. They took him to their home, where he lived among them for three days. This experience inspired him to begin creating what he called “Alebrijes”.
After recovering from his illness, he returned to Mexico City and opened a workshop to sell his works. He sold thousands of pieces throughout Latin America and Europe. Some of his most famous creations are the “Caballito de la Reina” (“Little Horse of the Queen”) and the “Mujer del Pajaro” (“Bird Woman”).
Linares’ artworks have been displayed in museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the Musée d’Art Moderne et contemporain in Paris; the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid; the Tate Modern in London; and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
The Alebrijes are now considered one of the most important examples of folk art in Mexico.
Linares died at the young age of 85 in 1992. He had been suffering from cancer since 1977. His death came just one day after his son Pedro Linares died of a heart attack. His funeral took place on July 15, 1992, in Mexico City. At his request, he was buried in the Panteón de Dolores alongside his wife, María del Carmen Hernández Pérez, who died in 1989.
His three children and later grandchildren continued the tradition of producing alebrije. They are now sold in shops throughout Mexico, where they remain popular among collectors. In some cases, the original designs are still used, while others are based on newer styles.
Alebrijes continue being produced by the Linarese family and in other workshops around Mexico.
In 1945, while working as a carpenter, Linares began having strange visions. He dreamed about animals, such as rabbits and dogs, that came alive. When he woke up, it seemed like he could see the animals move around him.
He told no one about what happened until 1961, when he wrote down some of his experiences in a notebook. Then, in 1970, he showed his drawings to a friend named José Luis González Barrera.
The two men published a book together titled Alebrije, meaning “little elf,” in 1972. The following year, the book won First Prize in the National Book Fair in Mexico City. Soon, people across Latin America were buying copies of the book to bring home and display in their living rooms.
Today, Alebrijes are found everywhere throughout Mexico, including in homes, restaurants, hotels, stores, schools, churches, cemeteries, museums, parks, beaches, and even prisons. They’re often displayed during the Day of the Dead celebrations each November 2nd.
Pedro Linares Lopez (1906-1992, Mexican)
Born in Mexico City, Linares was inspired by his childhood memories of playing around the city streets. He created his first piñata when he was thirty, during an illness. When he recovered, he began dreaming about these surreal, mythical beings which surrounded his death and birth. These creatures became known as Alebrije, Spanish for “little goblin.”
In 1975, Judith Bronowski filmed him making his creations. His life story was later turned into a book, La Fábula de los Alebrijes (“The Tale of the Little Goblins”), published in 1981. This led to his being recognized internationally for his work.
In 1982, Linares founded the Grupo de Estudio y Conservación de la Cultura Popular Mexicana, or Group of Study and Conservation of Folk Culture in Mexico. It is dedicated to preserving traditional crafts and customs.
In 1985, Linares received the Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes, or National Award for Science and Arts.
Linares died in 1992 at the age of 85. His body lay in state at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City for several days before his burial in the Pantheon of Illustrious Persons in the same building.