“Junípero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions” on view exclusively at The Huntington, Aug. 17, 2013—Jan. 6, 2014
Press Preview: Friday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m.–noon
Exhibition Flow • Bio: Steven W. Hackel • Bio: Catherine Gudis • Map of Serra's Travels
Related Book & Events • Images
Aug. 8, 2013 (updated from March 26, 2013)
MARINO, Calif.—The life of Junípero Serra (1713–1784)—and his impact on
Indian life and California culture through his founding of missions—is
the subject of an unprecedented, comprehensive, international loan
exhibition opening Aug. 17, 2013, and remaining on view through Jan. 6,
2014, exclusively at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and
Botanical Gardens. “Junípero Serra and the Legacies of the California
Missions” coincides with the 300th anniversary of Serra’s birth and
includes about 250 objects from The Huntington's collections and those
of 61 lenders in the United States, Mexico, and Spain. The exhibition
examines Serra’s early life and career in Mallorca, Spain; his mission
work in Mexico and California; the diversity and complexity of
California Indian cultures; and the experiences of the missionaries and
Indians who lived in the missions.
“Junípero Serra” also
delves into the preservation and reconstruction of the missions as
physical structures; the persistence of Indian culture from before the
mission period to the present; the missions’ enduring place in
California culture today; and a wide variety of perspectives—some of
them irreconcilable—on Serra and the meaning of his life.
a rich, complex, and multi-faceted story, and one that has not been
told before in an exhibition of this magnitude,” said Steven Hackel,
co-curator of the exhibition, professor of history at the University of
California, Riverside, and Serra biographer (Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father,
2013). “Serra was 55 years old and had had a very full life by the time
he came to California in 1769. In this show, we are working to move
beyond the standard polemic that often surrounds Serra and the missions.
We present a picture that is equally rich in its portrayal of not only
Serra’s life but the meaning of the missions for a range of California
Indians.” The general tendency is to think that Serra’s life work began
with the California missions, Hackel added, and that Indian culture
disappeared with the onset of those missions. “The exhibition challenges
both of these assumptions.”
Contemporary art, including a
video work created expressly for the exhibition by James Luna
(Luiseño), and first-person narratives by descendants of the missions
“defy any presumptions that Native Americans ‘vanished’ or that they
hold a monolithic view about the mission past,” said Catherine Gudis,
co-curator of the exhibition and professor of California and public
history at the University of California, Riverside. “Rather, the show
represents a range of responses—including resistance and resilience—as
the result of a period of painful disruption and devastating change.”
key items in the exhibition are a host of rare paintings and
illustrations documenting the history of the Spanish island of Mallorca,
Serra’s life, 18th-century Catholic liturgical art, and New Spain, as
well as several sketches and watercolors that are among the first visual
representations of California and California Indians by Europeans.
“These images are not only beautiful,” says Hackel, “but they are among
the most important ethnographic representations of California Indian
life at the onset of the missions and of Indian life in the missions.”
on view are Serra’s baptismal record from Mallorca, his Bible and
lecture notes from Mallorca, and the diary he composed as he traveled
from Baja California to San Diego in 1769. Notable and unique items
documenting Indian culture in California include a textile fragment that
is thousands of years old, woven by California Indians from seaweed and
fiber, as well as beads, tools, baskets, and written documents from the
colonial period. “Like the Spaniards, these were people who had a
significant history and culture well before the Europeans showed up, and
it was a history and culture that would persevere, although not without
huge changes, in and after the missions,” said Gudis.
Serra” provides a sweeping examination of where Serra came from,
including the history and culture of Mallorca well before his time and
during his early life; where Serra traveled, including his early adult
years performing missionary work from central Mexico to Baja; and
finally, his work to establish a system of missions along the California
coastline from south to north.
At the same time, it
provides the backdrop against which the missions emerged: early
California was populated by numerous and diverse groups of Indians.
Culture and customs varied from village to village; more than 100
languages were spoken; and in the parts of California colonized by
Spain, the Indians numbered nearly 70,000.
the auspices of the Catholic Church and the Spanish flag, believed his
mission was to convert them to Christianity. However, his dream of
encouraging Indians to relocate to the missions ultimately led many to
an early grave, as diseases killed thousands of Indians who lived there.
mission period was a defining one in California’s history—and Serra is
the most visible symbol of that period,” said Hackel. “But in taking
this story all the way through—from before Indians and Europeans made
contact, through the construction and collapse of the mission system,
and then to the present day—it is, in fact, a story of conflicting,
blending, and overlapping cultures, of imperial expansion and human
drama and loss, and then, finally, of the perseverance and survival of
not only European institutions in California, but the California Indians
who were the focus of Serra’s missions.”
Serra in Mallorca
Serra was born Miquel Joseph Serra on Nov. 24, 1713, in the Spanish
village of Petra, which is located on the island of Mallorca in the
Mediterranean Sea. The son of a farmer, he spent his early childhood
working the family’s land and attending a Franciscan school; Catholicism
loomed large in both his home and in the greater community. At an early
age, he began studying for the priesthood, and when he joined the
Franciscan Order, he took the name Junípero, in honor of one of the
followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. He rose quickly through the ranks
of the Franciscan hierarchy in Mallorca and soon held an important
position as a professor of theology at the Lullian University in the
Mallorcan capital of Palma.
“Junípero Serra and the
Legacies of the California Missions” includes a number of documents and
objects from Mallorca from that time, including a silver chalice from
the Franciscan convent in Palma; a woodcut depicting juniper used by
Serra and perhaps carved by him; and spectacular period maps, drawings,
“We want to convey the sense that Mallorca
was a place with a deep history, one shaped by the island’s position at
the crossroads of North Africa and the Western Mediterranean,” said
Steven Hackel, co-curator of the exhibition and associate professor of
history at the University of California, Riverside. The show displays
two ceramic bowls from Mallorca—one from the 14th century decorated with
the Star of David, and the other from one century before, showing
Arabic writing—depicting the island’s strong Jewish and Arabic roots.
“It’s important to note,” Hackel said, “that Serra came from a place
where very different cultures had been in contact and even conflict for
hundreds of years.”
Serra in Mexico
was typical for a Franciscan of his day, Serra traveled the Mallorcan
countryside on foot, preaching the gospel. Then, in 1749, he and several
Franciscan colleagues decided to go to Mexico as missionaries. He
arrived in the capital of Mexico on Jan. 1, 1750. For eight years, he
worked in the Sierra Gorda region of Mexico, overseeing five
pre-existing missions and supervising the building of permanent mission
structures (designated a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003). The
exhibition includes Serra correspondence from this period as well as
documents showing his work as a field agent in Mexico for the Spanish
Inquisition, investigating individuals accused of witchcraft.
Serra in Alta California
1769, Spain, eager to lay full claim to the area that would become
California, called on Serra to help establish and run missions in San
Diego, Monterey, and points in between. Spanish officials were worried
that Russians or other Europeans might otherwise attempt to settle
there. Serra, in the company of other Franciscans and dozens of
soldiers, worked his way north and established Mission San Diego in the
summer of 1769. One year later, the Franciscans established a mission
and presidio in Monterey, and it was there in the summer of 1770 that
Serra and Gaspar de Portolá, the interim governor of California, took
possession of Alta California for Spain.
Indian labor was
essential to building and sustaining the missions, as drawings and
letters in “Junípero Serra” depict. There is also evidence of a blending
of cultures. “For instance, Indians brought musical skills and
traditions to the missions, elements of which made their way into
Catholic liturgical music,” says Catherine Gudis, co-curator of the
exhibition and associate professor of history and director of the public
history program at the University of California, Riverside. Drums and
other instruments as well as elaborate handmade choir books will be on
display, along with several highly prized California Indian baskets made
for European audiences or visiting dignitaries. The Chumash women who
made them used traditional plant materials and motifs but also wove
heraldic designs identical to those on Spanish colonial coins in
circulation during the mission period. Also on display are woodworking
and carved sculptural ornaments made by Indian artisans, some of whom
likely apprenticed with Mexican craftsmen.
was as dramatic as it was passionate. In support of his efforts to
convert Indians to Catholicism, he ordered monumental oil paintings for
the mission walls, showing the mission’s patron saints, for example. One
large (six by seven feet) painting depicts the “glory of heaven” in
order to make his understanding of the afterlife more tangible to a
people unfamiliar with it, says Hackel. That picture, by Serra’s
favorite Mexican painter, José de Páez (1720–ca. 1801), is on view, as
well as other significant works of liturgical art from Serra’s time.
Serra” also includes displays based on the Early California Population
Project, a database of sacramental records created by the Franciscans,
which The Huntington compiled and Hackel oversaw. The database contains
the baptism, marriage, and burial records of many of the more than
80,000 Indians who lived in the California missions. Using the database,
Hackel and Gudis created two displays: one shows how Indians moved from
their villages to the missions, and how their villages eventually
disappeared; the other presents the original native names and the
Spanish given names of the tens of thousands of California Indians who
lived and died in the missions, or came to the missions for baptism. The
database itself is an online research tool for tracking Indian
genealogy, connecting California Indians today to their ancestors.
The Missions after Serra
the time Serra died in Mission San Carlos (Carmel) in 1784, he had
shepherded the building of nine missions. Another 12 would be built
before the missions were secularized and the mission effort abandoned in
the 1830s under Mexico. At the same time the missions were dismantled,
the status of the Indians was becoming increasingly imperiled, says
Gudis. “With the conclusion of the Mexican-American War, the advent of
the Gold Rush, and the incorporation of California into the Union in
1850, the Indian population was decimated and dispossessed, forced onto
the most unproductive land and into the most exploitative wage labor,”
she says. “With the rapid desire of Americans to claim the land, Indians
were essentially stripped of any rights they had retained under Spanish
and then Mexican rule.”
“Yet,” Gudis says, “the stripping
of their civil rights in the American era was not what we saw depicted
by artists in later decades.” Landscape painters Jules Tavernier
(1844–1889) and Edward Deakin (1838–1923) and photographer Carleton
Watkins (1829–1916) were among those who visited the mission ruins and
depicted them, for the most part, devoid of the people who had provided a
hand in their construction. Decades later, through the efforts of local
boosters and promoters, the missions would become tourist attractions
and a defining architectural motif for California, influencing the look
of commercial, religious, and residential structures. “From red tile
roofs to the mission plays and the story of Ramona, missions took on a
different and highly romanticized meaning—creating a Spanish fantasy
past for the state,” she added. Tourist souvenirs, family
photographs—including Ektachrome color slides from the 1950s and
1960s—and other mementos are on view in the exhibition.
Serra” also includes a gallery displaying cultural expressions of
contemporary Native and non-Native artists that reinterpret the mission
period and wrestle with the current legacies of Serra. From Linda
Yamane, a Rumsien Ohlone artist from the Monterey area, comes an
intricately woven ceremonial basket with feathers and shells, a type of
basketry produced for the first time in more than 200 years and marking
her revival of basket traditions that had essentially vanished. Gerald
Clarke, of Cahuilla heritage, displays a different sort of meticulously
assembled basket—this one made of aluminum from Budweiser and Coca Cola
cans, while L. Frank, a Tongva member, offers her take on missions and
mission revival through her comic strips. Luiseño artist James Luna
rounds out the exhibition with a large video projection that assembles
images of mission records, archival photographs from the turn of the
20th century featuring Indians at missions, and contemporary family
portraits from the artist’s collection.
Wells Fargo is presenting corporate sponsor of ”Junípero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions.”
exhibition support is provided by the Dan Murphy Foundation, the Milias
Foundation, the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, the Steinmetz
Foundation, Scott Jordan, and the Turicchi Family Foundation. Additional
support is provided by Heather and Paul Haaga, the William H. Hannon
Foundation, the Walter Lantz Foundation, the Carrie Estelle Doheny
Foundation, the Bill Hannon Foundation, the SahanDaywi Foundation, John
and Dorothy Shea, and the United States-Mexico Cultural &
Thea Page, 626-405-2260, firstname.lastname@example.org
A new biography by co-curator of the exhibition Steven Hackel, Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father,
is available at The Huntington's Bookstore & More. Beginning with
Serra’s years in Mallorca as a priest and professor, exploring his time
in Mexico working in the Sierra Gorda and as an itinerant preacher, and
detailing his final years on the California coast as an uncompromising
missionary and shrewd administrator, the book reveals Serra’s potent
blend of Franciscan piety and worldly cunning. A man of indomitable
will, Serra outmaneuvered a series of royal officials to establish
himself as the great mission builder of his time. But for all his
success in bringing Spanish customs and Christian beliefs to Native
Americans on the Pacific coast, his legacy today is highly contested. On
the 300th anniversary of Serra’s birth, Hackel’s biography presents a
complex, authoritative study of a man whose life continues to be
celebrated and denounced.
Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father,
by Steven W. Hackel, Hill and Wang (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
9/3/2013. 6 x 9 in., 352 pages, 16 pages of black-and-white
illustrations/4 maps/notes/further reading/Index – $27
A Taste of Art: California Mission Foods
Sept. 7 (Saturday) 9 a.m–12:30 p.m.
chef and educator Maite Gomez-Rejón from ArtBites and discover how
Spanish and Native cultures blended together in the California missions.
Participants will tour the exhibition and prepare a meal blending Old
and New World flavors. Members: $85. Non-Members: $95.
Sept. 11 (Wednesday) 4:30–5:30 p.m.
co-curators Steven Hackel and Catherine Gudis for a private tour of the
exhibition and gain insights into the life of one of the most
influential, yet least understood, figures in California history.
Members: $15. Non-Members: $20. Registration: 626-405-2128.
Lecture: The Life and Times of Junípero Serra in Borderlands Perspective
Sept. 19 (Thursday) 7:30 p.m.
Hurst Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History compares Father
Serra’s missionary practices with those of his predecessors in the
American Southwest, Texas, and Spanish Florida and examines the way in
which he accommodated his missions to the uniquely Californian native
communities. The program is co-sponsored by the Academy of American
Franciscan History. Free. Reservations: 800-838-3006 or
brownpapertickets.com. Ahmanson Room, Botanical Center.
Conference - “Junípero Serra: Context and Representation, 1713 to 2013”
Sept. 20–21 (Friday–Saturday), 2013
Serra: Context and Representation” brings together an international
group of scholars to explore the larger contexts within which Serra
lived and the various ways he has been represented to allow a greater
understanding of a man whose life was even more expansive and complex
than the missions he established in California. Presented by The
Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in
association with the Academy of American Franciscan History and the
USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.
Children’s Workshop: Exploring the Missions
Sept. 21 (Saturday) 9:30–11:30 a.m.
materials were used to build the California missions? And who lived
there? With instructor Laura Moede, children will peek into the past to
hear stories and learn how bricks and baskets were made before making
their own adobe bricks and woven art to take home. Ages 5–8. Fee
includes one accompanying adult. Members: $25. Non-Members: $30.
Film Screening: “6 Generations”: A Chumash Family’s History
Oct. 5 (Saturday) 1–3 p.m.
of the Barbareño Chumash tell a story of cultural survival and the
power of the human spirit in this one-hour documentary. A discussion
following the film will include Chumash elder Ernestine De Soto,
anthropologist John Johnson, and historian Catherine Gudis. General
admission. Ahmanson Room, Botanical Center.
Family Cooking Class: Californio Cuisine
Nov. 23 (Saturday) 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
back in time with chef Ernest Miller to prepare some authentic dishes
from the earliest days of the California missions. What foods were
available and how did early Californians adapt to new fruits and
vegetables? Includes a visit to the exhibition. Ages 7–12. Fee includes
one accompanying adult. Members: $30. Non-Members: $35. Registration:
Web Resources for Teaching
Huntington has developed a primary-source-based website relating to the
exhibition. Based on California’s Common Core State Standards in
support of 4th-grade curricula, “Exploring the California Missions” is
About The Huntington
Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a
collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars
and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be
found online at huntington.org.
Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, Calif., 12 miles
from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Monday, Wednesday,
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through Labor Day) are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major
holidays. Admission on weekdays: $20 adults, $15 seniors (65+), $12
students (ages 12–18 or with full-time student I.D.), $8 youth (ages
5–11), free for children under 5. Group rate, $11 per person for groups
of 15 or more. Members are admitted free. Admission on weekends: $23
adults, $18 seniors, $13 students, $8 youth, free for children under 5.
Group rate, $14 per person for groups of 15 or more. Members are
admitted free. Admission is free to all visitors with advance tickets on
the first Thursday of each month. Information: 626-405-2100 or huntington.org
High-resolution digital images available on request for publicity use.]
|Jóse de Páez, La Gloria del Cielo (The Glory of Heaven), 1771–72. Oil on canvas, 72 ½ × 88 ¾ in. Mission Carmel, Diocese of Monterey..
Basilia, Chumash presentation basket with Spanish colonial coin
designs, 1815–22. Deer grass, Indian rush, sumac, 24 ½ in. diameter, 4
in. height. Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
|Cristóbal de Villalpando, La Mística Ciudad de Dios (The Mystical City of God),
1706. Oil on canvas, 71 × 45 in. Museo regional de Gaudalupe/CONACULTA–
INAH, Guadalupe, Zacatecas Nacional del Virreinato, Mexico.
José Cardero, India e Indio de Monterey (Indians of Monterey), 1791. Sepia on paper, 9 ¾ in × 7 in. Museo Naval, Madrid.
|G. Haven Bishop, Mission Play Lighting Display, n.d. Glass plate, 8 × 10 in. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Lithograph Company, Mission Memories crate label, 1910–20. Color
printed lithograph, 10 × 11 in. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and
|Jules Tavernier, Carmel Mission on San Carlos Day, 1875. Oil on canvas, 18 × 29 in. Courtesy of William and Merrily Karges.
|Artist unknown, Painting of Walled City of Palma, n.d. Ayuntamiento de Palma, Mallorca.
||Ferdinand Deppe, Mission San Gabriel, c.1832. Oil on canvas, 27 × 37 in. Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.
unknown, Ohlone basket with beads, n.d. 4 ¼ × 6 ¾ × 6 ¾ in. Southwest
Museum of the American Indian Collection, Autry National Center, Los
||Fra Francesc Caimari Rotge, Portrait of Serra; Retrat de fra Juníper Serra, 1790. Ayuntamiento de Palma, Mallorca.
|Francisco Palóu, Relación Histórica de la vida y apostólicas tareas del venerable padre fray Junípero Serra, 1787. Book, 8 ¼ × 12 in. open. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
||Carleton Watkins, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, ca. 1877. Albumen silver print. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Yamane (Rumsen Ohlone), ceremonial basket, 2012. Willow, sedge, bird
feathers, and olivella-shell beads, 18 in. diameter, 14 in. height.
Courtesy of the artist, supported by a grant from the Creative Work
||Cathy L. Nelson-Rodriguez (Luiseño/Wailaki/Choctaw), James Tac, 2005. Oil on canvas, 31 × 31 in. Collection of James A. Luna.
|Photographer unknown, Mission Santa Barbara, March 1972. Kodachrome slide. Charles Phoenix Collection.