“Night of the Iguana was filmed in Puerto Vallarta in 1963, marking the beginning of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s love affair.”
Puerto Vallarta is a spectacular Hulings landscape painted in 1976. Mention of this Mexican beach resort community reminded a few of us of 1970s Love Boat episodes that frequently docked there. Elizabeth has fond memories of being there as a kid with Clark and Mary, and drinking multiple Fantas at her first swim-up bar. Located in the province of Jalisco, the city was named after one of its former governors.
Aztatlan to Paparazzi
The history of the area is not well-documented before the 19th Century—although we do know it was home to Aztatlan people, was attacked by Francisco Cortez in 1525, and subsequent Mexican thriving villages were centered on mining and farming industries. There is also evidence that the nearby Bay of Banderas was a harbor for trade and pirate vessels long before the Love Boat. It wasn’t until 1942 that there was a major road connecting Puerto Vallarta to Compostela—Hulings may or may not have known that historically it had a famous mule-trail as one of its main access routes—and by the early 1950s, it was becoming a travel destination. Night of the Iguana was filmed there in 1963, marking the beginning of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s love affair; the presence of Hollywood and literary luminaries such as Tenessee Williams and their accompanying paparazzi cemented the allure of the location. Today there remain Huichil and Nayarit tribes and a still-booming tourist industry.
At 24 x 48”, this painting is one of the larger-format works that Hulings created. With jewel-toned blue, green, and terra cotta hues in warm evening light, it features two human figures and a cameo appearance from a couple of donkeys. Laundry figures prominently in many Hulings pieces: working against professional advice never to feature either laundry or Mexico, he had a very successful career confidently painting both. Here we have a lovely example of the tension of a clothesline adding both visual interest and some storytelling about the domestic activity of a day in this community. But the showstopper is the masterful composition itself. It’s a sweeping vista where Hulings has given us an elliptical pattern for our eyes to follow: from top left, down to the sharp detail of the stone wall and structure on the bottom right, and back up the earthen path to follow the people and animals on their way. If you look closely, you’ll see hard flecks of sunlight on all the structures, surprising electric blue accents in the water, and blazing green dotted in the grass: it’s truly magic hour. Hulings’ deep respect for traditional ways of life is very much in evidence here. Although we clearly see the beauty of the setting, it’s certainly not the tourist side of Puerto Vallarta.
Bring Puerto Vallarta Home
If you are a Hulings collector, you’re in luck. The Jackson Hole Art Auction is featuring this work in their Sept 13-14 Auction. If you would like to take home this beauty, just drop us a line and we will put you directly in touch with our colleagues at the auction.