Mexican Muralism Movement

I could not resist the alliteration offered by a headline for today's blog but what has been even more exciting is reading about the Mexican Muralism Movement which I have found enlightening. As one of my Sons-in-law is Mexican I dedicate this Blog to him. We will get onto Diego Rivera (Mexican Muralist) in the next post after this introduction.

People have been creating murals since women learnt how to draw on cave walls. Yes, it is now believed that the majority of the cave muralists were women which makes sense as the men would be out hunting, fishing and fighting and doing stuff in their man caves. Left at home with all the cavework completed for the day, the women turned their hands to painting. And it was their hands that gave archaeologists the information about who painted the murals as in many cases they left hand prints.

Mexico has a rich and remarkable ancient history and in 2015 cave paintings from the Olmec period, 2,500 years ago, were restored. This was the earliest known major civilisation in Mexico. I know the quality of the image is poor but aren't the colours beautiful. The sketch gives you some idea of the original painting.
(Photo by David Gore)

Much later Hispanic rule murals were used to communicate the Catholic stories to the people. A painter with the most amazing name of any artist Juan Nepomuceno María Bernabé del Corazón de Jesús Cordero de Hoyos ( 1824-1884) known as Juan Cordero was the first Mexican muralist to use philosophical themes, though mostly of religious orientation. He studied in the Classical Style in Rome and Florence and was responsible for painting the cupola of the Santa Teresa Church, Mexico City and other churches.
Cordero also painted a secular mural at the request of Gabino Barreda at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria but apparently it has disappeared. I did find a segment from another mural done by Cordero but couldn't locate the name or place of the work.

The strong association with Europe continued under the government of the Porfirio Díaz regime (1876-1880, 1884-1911) which sent artists aboard to study as part of the cultural development of Mexico. But the indigenous Mexicans and their culture were being ignored and it all came to a head with the Revolution in 1910. This is Destruction of the Old Order painted by José Clemente Orozco
And thus the Mexican Muralism Movement was born rising out of the conflict to promote national pride. The shackles of Classical European Art were thrown off and a new brand encompassing a visual social language was born powered by the new Government which employed artists to educate the people about Mexican History and Cultural Identity. Forefront were the muralists José Clemente Orozco (as above), David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera and collectively they became known as Los tres grandes. Looking at a couple more murals by Jose Clemente Orozco the message is powerful. In Zapatistaas (a Mexican insurgent group) we see the Mexicans united as a force, supported in their mission by the women.Towering above them are their leaders dressed the same in traditional Mexican outfits but much larger.

Mexican Muralism had a significant impact on Public Art. It helped pave the way for art to be accessible to the ordinary people. It also assisted the artists who could work with less constraints and on a much larger canvas- public walls of immense size. And for thirty years between the 1920s and 1950s these Mexican artists cultivated a style that defined Mexican identity following the Revolution. This incredible work is by Siqueiros titled El pueblo a la universidad, la universidad al pueblo (UNAM mural) and can be found at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The work was done 1952–1956 and I believe the campus is a UN World Heritiage site.
(Ref: As an aside Siqueiros was involved in an unsuccessful assassination attempt against fellow Marxist Leon Trotsky.

On the same campus the library is covered in murals painted by Juan

I'm sure you are getting a feel for the iconography being used by the Mexican Muralists which in essence featured Mexico's illustrious past, present and future.

One of the earliest government commissions for a post-Revolution mural was for the National Preparatory School, a high school in Mexico City affiliated with UNAM. During the 1920s Los tres grandes and other artists completed works throughout the school’s expansive exteriors and interiors. This is one of the murals painted by José Clemente Orozco titled La Classe Obrera (1926).
And here we can in situ the Encounter of the Armies (From Porfirianism to the Revolution) by David Alfaro Siqueiros. (Ref: Artsy).

And a close up of the details from Porfirianism to the Revolution (Dal Porfirismo a la Revolucion) which covers 4,500 square foot detailing the first Mexican strike in Cananea (North West Mexico) that represented an epical fight between capitalism and socialism. Siqueiros painted the mural between 1957 and 1966 being in prison from 1960 to 1964 for expressing political dissent. (Ref:)

The Hero Image today is one of the giant murals by David Alfaro Siqueiros that hangs at Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City.

Tomorrow we will look at the murals produced by Diego Rivera

Murals and Street Art in general are a valuable way for artists to communicate ideas to the public without the contraints imposed by galleries and organisers of exhibitions. Artists are at the whim of those that choose to display their works, a choice which is usually dependent on what will sell which in turn is dependent on what is popular at the moment.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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