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Self-portrait of Gerardo Murilo, aka Dr. Atl – File image/EL UNIVERSAL

Dr. Atl, the man who loved volcanoes

Mexico City
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October 3rd is the birth anniversary of Mexican painter, writer, activist, and philosopher, Gerardo Murillo Cornado, better known as “Dr. Atl”.

This cultural leader had a marked influence in the political identity and culture of Mexico in times of revolution and rebirth, and to prove he was proud of his roots, he chose the name “Atl”, which means water in Náhuatl.

It was the Argentinian writer Leopoldo Lugones who suggested he added the “Dr.” to his pseudonym, according to an article by the University of Guadalajara – considering Mr. Murillo was indeed a Ph.D. in Philosophy.

In 1903, he began to teach at the San Carlos Academy, and some of his students were Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco.

Yet, his greatest love were Mexican volcanoes. He found inspiration in nature, particularly in the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes, and spent several years studying and observing the outskirts of the mountains, painting the landscapes


In 1926 he studied vulcanology and he was fascinated by the Paricutín volcano –  which he got the opportunity to draw chronological as it formed in a cornfield in the state of Michoacán. He wrote the book Cómo nace y crece un volcán (The Birth and Growth of a Volcano) based upon his observations and reports.

Today Google pays tribute to Dr. Atl, featuring him in their doodle.

Although he lost a leg during his excursions, Dr. Atl continued traveling and painting, and with the help of a helicopter, he painted aerial takes of landscapes.


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