Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mexican Muralists--especially one

The Mexican muralist movement was at its height in the 1920s after the Mexican Revolution and Mexico City's public buildings are full of dramatic murals by a number of different artists. The big three are Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera. These three men were all socialists and painted huge murals with social and political messages.

We've visited several grand buildings featuring large murals and they really are strongly political and nationalistic. The buildings themselves are gorgeous, being mostly Colonial structures that are now either museums or public buildings. Yesterday we went to the Antiquo Collegio de San Ildefonso, formerly a Jesuit college started in 1588. It closed in the 1970s and opened in 1992 as a museum. It's a beautiful building, as you can see with its central courtyard and cloisters.

But it's the murals that set it apart. It has murals by several artists including Orozco and Rivera plus some others. This one on the stairs is by someone whose name I've forgotten, but I've included it to show you the scale of the art.

Here are a couple more. The artists painted on the walls, in niches, and on the ceilings too. The one on the left is by Orozco.


Here's another one. To me they are very heavy and dark with a lot of symbolism that I don't really understand.

I have to say that the murals that entrance me most are those done by Diego Rivera. He is perhaps known best now at Frida Kahlo's husband, but I think he is the much better painter.  Today we went to the Ministry of Education building to see the murals that he painted there in the 1920s.  His work also focuses on the social history of Mexico but with a much more humanistic view.  The entire building was painted with large murals celebrating the workers and the peasants and criticizing the aristocracy and the capitalists.  Take a look at these:

 He celebrates the lives and work of the people all over the country, both men and women.

This one shows workers coming out of a mine shaft and being frisked to make sure no gold was taken.

Others picture contrasts between the rich and the poor.

This one is called "The Death of Capitalism"

Still others commemorate revolutionary victories.

These murals were painted in the 1920s so they've faded quite a bit in the last 90 years. We saw one fellow obviously doing some restoration work, a painstaking business for sure.

I put this photo in so you can see just how large these paintings are. It was hard for me to get good photos because I had to angle the camera up to get the entire scene in.

And this last one I'm including because the bottom part of the painting is based on a pencil drawing that I admired in the show at the Museum of Modern Art. You can see it here if you're interested.

 Not wanting to bore you here, but I'm going to add a few more photos from a huge mural Diego did called "An Afternoon in Alameda Park".  This looks at first glance like a painting of people peacefully strolling in a park but it actually is coded history of Mexico with each figure actually portraying people throughout the country's history. Because I don't know the history that well I can't explain much, but here again are the themes of the powerful and the poor.  

Here's the entire mural and below it some close-ups. Sorry about the picture quality. These were taken with the iPad.

Here we see the contrast between the spoiled rich girl and the Indian child who is afraid of the dog.

And here the policeman is yelling at the child's father while the well-dressed people watch and smirk.

In this one a woman of the streets engages with a stuffy man who is next to a skeleton figure. 

well dressed ladies sneering while a child sells pastries

Here's the skeleton figure again and to the left is Frida Kahlo and in front of her is a young Diego Rivera.

These figures represent historic figures including Cortez and the King and Queen of Spain, plus many others. Note the young boy picking the pocket of one of the gentlemen.

Finally here's a photograph of Diego and Frida taken at their home in Coyacan. 

Tomorrow we plan to take a bus down to Coyacan to see the Frida Kahlo Museum to see where they lived. 


  1. How exciting for you both. To see these murals in person must be so exciting.
    It has been a few years of Frida Kahlo here off and on. Even the Tucson Botanical Gardens is having two years of her paintings and gardens instead of just one.
    Hope you have nice weather.
    cheers, parsnip


I really appreciate your comments.