From the monumental public frescoes of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Álfaro Siqueiros, to the canvasses and drawings of younger artists like Galván, Cantú, Meza, Tamayo, and Orozco Romero, Mexican painting since the First World War has developed into a strong, influential artistic tradition.
This book explores this Mexican tradition — the artists, their works, the social and political background, and the relationship of the modern painters to European and Mexican historical tradition. Helm, an important collector who knew most of the artists, writes informally yet with deep understanding about the major figures — Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros — as well as over 40 others little known outside their native Mexico.
He ably ties together such diverse influences as the Revolution and the regime of Obregón, the Siqueiros Syndicate and its power in getting artists to pool resources and works for a powerful national style, Rivera’s strong political beliefs and their effect on his work, Orozco’s deep empathy, the development of the young artists, the effects of low wages and bohemian existence on artistic production, links to Indian art, the rediscovery of fresco technique, important patrons, the religious and anti-religious forces in the early works, and much more. In addition, 95 works by 37 artists are reproduced, showing the range and best works of modern Mexican painting.
MacKinley Helm was in a uniquely favorable position to write about these artists, and his book is now considered the best introduction to the art and artists of Mexico during the great artistic movements of the ’20s and ’30s. Collectors, artists, and others who have felt the lack of solid information about this important Western tradition will find this book gives clear insight into the conflicts, personalities, and important works that have developed into modern Mexican art.