Mexican painting of the first half of the XX century (part 1)
In the XX century, one of the most significant phenomena of world culture unexpectedly became the art of Latin America, especially Mexico. The dramatic history of this country is replete with brutal conquests, murders, ruthless oppression of the masses – starting from the invasion in the 12th century of the warlike Aztec people, who later created a formidable state in Central Mexico.
In the first half of the 16th century, Mexico was conquered by the Spanish conquistadors, they destroyed the ancient civilization that had developed here, they planted Christianity with fire and sword and turned the Indians into slaves. Indian uprisings were suppressed, as was the nationwide struggle for Mexican independence. Nevertheless, in 1821, the country became an independent state, where a fierce struggle broke out between the people and the reactionary forces – landowners, clergy, and militarists, who received support from outside aggressive forces: US troops invaded here three times, the country was subjected to joint intervention by France, England and Spain.
In 1910, the Mexican bourgeois-democratic revolution crushed the dictatorship of tyrant president Porfirio Diaz. Armed rebel units led by peasant leaders Francisco Villa and Emiliano Zapata in 1914 occupied Mexico City. But soon the detachments were ousted from the capital and scattered, the peasant and labor movements were brutally suppressed, and Villa and Zapata were treacherously killed, but the Mexican revolution contributed to the creation of the Communist Party in the country, and to important changes. Historical events determined the content of Mexican graphics – it is closely related to social and political life.
When the revolution took place, graphic art in Mexico was just in its infancy, and yet it has a complex and rich background. Its beginnings are associated with monumental, wall painting, and this is one of the most important features of Mexican graphics of the 20th century. Its primary sources are visible in the illustration of ancient Native American manuscripts and in drawings on ceramics.
Drawings – flat, with expressive silhouettes of figures and bold, rich colors – are close to the style of monumental paintings and reliefs of the ancient Indian peoples. When the Aztec and Mayan culture was mercilessly destroyed, buildings with reliefs and frescoes were almost completely destroyed, and the manuscripts were burned with rare exceptions, painting and engraving were brought to Mexico by monks from Europe. The monks saw examples of Indian art: destroying them, they themselves fell under the influence of the “demonic” art of the Indians. In any case, the murals of the 16th century monasteries were nothing like the frescoes of famous Italians, even paintings by Spanish painters. On the white walls of the Mexican monasteries in Cholula, Uehotsingo, Aktopan unusual compositions appeared in black lines. Most of them were like engravings, and often were enlarged engravings. Although the murals depicted scenes from the life of Christian saints, the black and white bizarre pattern resembled Indian murals and reliefs. Both are inherent in decorativeness, love for a detailed, detailed story. Murals are designed for Indians who cannot read, they had to replace the book, and this feature was preserved in Mexican graphics until the middle of the 20th century.
In the 19th century, secular engraving developed – first in the form of vignettes, illustrations, then – simple pictures, city landscapes. The engraver Gaona, better known under the pseudonym Pitcheta, became the first Mexican cartoonist, in 1847 he founded the magazine Don Bulebulje (Mr. Sumasbrod) and there he placed cartoons on the morals of a “decent” society, touching upon acute issues of modern political life. The style of Pitcheta’s engravings does not seem original, it is closer to the pan-European style of illustrated magazines, household and political caricatures, where the main influences were French masters – Honore Daumier, Paul Gavarni, Gustave Dore. But the very appearance of social satire in Mexico is a major event.