Artists of the Mexican Revolution: Creating Art for the People

Art, in all different mediums, has been used for a long time as a means of communication about political activities/opinions in communities and countries worldwide. Murals, specifically after the Mexican Revolution, were a way for artists to depict the revolution and to educate a mostly illiterate nation about their culture. Art paralleled the government in the twentieth century and the revolution affected everyone who came in contact with it.

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“Zapato” by David Siqueiros (1931). 

Known as “Los Tres Grandes”, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros, were the leading artists that evolved from the revolution. With the rise to power of Alvaro Obregon, a Ministry of Public Education was created. These artists were called to educate workers and peasants who had been the main focus of the revolution. At first, artists mostly clung to nationalistic material in their murals but struggled to connect with all that had happened and was happening in their country. I think it was because these artists didn’t participate in the revolution (except for Siqueiros) and so it was hard at first to understand; they had no personal experience with what occurred on the battle fields and how significant it was to the country and its people. Orozco was the first to draw inspiration from the battles and depicted a heroic and dramatic Mexico on walls for the whole world to see. Rivera then began to portray the lives of the Mexican people through their work, struggles, hopes and dreams. For about ten years (1924-1934), the government began to favor upper and middle class citizens which ultimately effected these artists. However, in 1934, Lazaro Cardenas re-birthed the artistic renaissance and the subject material for art began to change with a growing conservatism government.

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Diego Rivera mural depicting Mexican history from 1521-1930, Palacio Nacional, Mexico City. 

I actually got to talk with my grandmother about the murals in Mexico City as she had seen them while visiting with my grandfather. She said they cover every type of building imaginable and are very important to the culture and people of Mexico. What I’m wondering is how these revolutionary murals affect society today? Do they offer opinions and protests that the government doesn’t want modern people to know or believe in? I’m sure many beautiful murals have been destroyed just because political opinions are always changing. However, it’s interesting to ponder how this type of art is used today and if it truly is art for the people like it was after the revolution, or if it’s just used as decorative purposes and cannot truly be appreciated by the people who view it.

-Katy Andrade

Bibliography:

Derr, Virginia B. “The Rise of a Middle-Class Tradition in Mexican Art.” Journal of Inter-American Studies 3, no. 3 (1961): 385-409. doi:10.2307/164845.

Garnett, W. “MURAL PAINTING HEART OF THE ARTISTIC REBIRTH OF MEXICO IN THE 20TH CENTURY.” Artes De México, no. 5/6 (1954): 133-39. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/24312060.

Patterson, Robert H. “An Art in Revolution: Antecedents of Mexican Mural Painting, 1900-1920.” Journal of Inter-American Studies 6, no. 3 (1964): 377-87. doi:10.2307/164913.

Polcari, Stephen. “Orozco and Pollock: Epic Transfigurations.” American Art 6, no. 3 (1992): 37-57. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/3109102.

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One thought on “Artists of the Mexican Revolution: Creating Art for the People

  1. jlbrewster says:

    I think that using murals to represent the people and their struggles is extremely enterprising. I would love to see these masterpieces in person.

    Like

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