Five Influential Mexican Artists
Published Apr 1, 2009 - (Updated Dec 3, 2012)
Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Spring 2009 issue.
Should you suddenly find yourself in the midst of a highbrow conversation about Mexican art, here are five names that may come up and the reasons why they might.
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
Along with Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquerios, Rivera created the Mexican Muralist Movement in the early part of the 20th century, a significant achievement worldwide in public art development. Among his wealthy patrons, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller convinced husband John D. to commission a mural for the Rockefeller Center in New York City, which was near completion in 1932. But the mural offended many, due to the inclusion of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, and was demolished prior to completion.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
A freak bus accident during her teens left this internationally acclaimed artist bedridden for most of her adult life. But this tragic incident would define the course of her destiny. As she recovered from fractures of her back, ribs, collarbone and pelvis, damage to her reproductive organs, and shoulder and foot injuries, she began painting to occupy her time. Many of her works symbolically depict her psychological and physical wounds. She didn’t reach international recognition until many decades after her death, during the 1980s artistic movement known as NeoMexicanism.
José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949)
Along with Diego Rivera, Orozco was heavily influenced by Jose Guadalupe Posada’s satirical engravings, often stopping to watch him work at his shop on the way to the famed San Carlos Academy in Mexico City, where Mexico’s most influential 20th-century artists received their education. A tireless traveler, he spent several years living and working in the United States, where one of his most famous murals, The Epic of American Civilization, was painted at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, between 1932 and 1934, spanning almost 3200 square feet (300 m2).
Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
Tamayo pioneered a printing technique called “mixografia,” in which artwork is printed on paper, but with added depth and texture. Often tagged as a traitor to the prevailing socialist views shared by other artists of his time, such as Orozco and Rivera, he spent many years living abroad, spending extended periods of time in New York City and Paris. One of his paintings, “Tres Personajes,” painted in the 1970s and stolen over 20 years ago, was miraculously found on a New York street by New Yorker Elizabeth Gibson while she was out for a coffee run. It was subsequently auctioned by Sotheby’s during their fall 2007 sale of Latin American Art, fetching a whopping $1,049,000 USD.
David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974)
An artist who was occupied by both artistic and militant pursuits throughout most of his adult life, Siqueiros actually believed that both should be intertwined. As early as age 15, he was involved in student strikes at the San Carlos Academy. Subsequent political subversion even led to incarceration and a period of self-exile from Mexico. One of his most renowned murals was produced at Mexico City’s National University, one of the few educational institutions worldwide to be deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.