Mexican painting of the first half of the XX century (part 2)
The start of the Mexican schedule itself was laid by the largest engraver of the XIX century – Jose Guadalupe Posada. He worked as an artist in newspapers, first in provincial cities, then in Mexico City. He cut everyday scenes, illustrations, caricatures on wood, in total he completed over 15 thousand engravings. Posada declared himself during the years of reaction, and at the end of his life he became the first artist of the revolution, he was admired and studied by the great masters of Mexican art. Engravings Posada responded to everything that happened in the country, they were printed in large print runs on cheap paper.
In the engravings of Posada, everything is imbued with a folklore spirit – the artist liked to draw pictures to folk songs and ballads, to fables and instructive parables, and he was especially characteristic of the “calavera” – various sketches with skeletons dressed in the clothes of peasants and townspeople, landowners and merchants. The theme “calaver” goes through all the art of Mexico from ancient ceramic and stone sculpture to Diego Rivera’s frescoes. In this game of life and death, the Mexicans have long seen the embodiment of their own destiny, an expression of an enduring tradition. During the years of the revolution, the social orientation of Posada’s creativity became especially active, his engravings call for struggle, angrily condemn reactionaries and traitors. The relevance and responsiveness of Posada’s art is an example for all subsequent national graphics.
The art of Mexican graphic art has acquired new features, primarily in the series of watercolors by José Clemente Orozco “Mexico in Revolution”. In 1913, he began working on the series, and ended it in 1917, when the revolution ended, and the author left for the USA due to political persecution. Orozco did not think of creating a complete graphic cycle, he was worried about something completely different – he was in a hurry to capture pictures of popular anger and cruel reprisals. The shocked master left graphic evidence of unparalleled artistic power. A lot of strong denunciations of imperialism and fascism were made in the work of well-known graphs – from Frans Mazerel to Boris Prokorov. Orozco’s watercolors took a special place in this series, representing a cry of pain, horror and indignation. Watercolors are simple, laconic, the image is often created with only a few colors – black, red, blue, but we see a picture of a grandiose ashes of history, where among the skeletons and beams the corpses of the hanged, executed, and mutilated cry out for the memory of future generations. In Orozco’s watercolors, Mexican graphics rise to the world level. Their author became a world-famous master of monumental painting, and his name next to the names of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros won lasting fame.
Rivera and Siqueiros deeply honored Orozco, the founder of the school of Mexican monumental painting. The watercolor cycle Mexico in Revolution played an important role in the development of new art. In the paintings of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, which the artist began in 1922, especially in the scenes “Trench”, “Farewell”, one can recognize the harsh simplicity, that inner passion and pain, with which the watercolors of the revolutionary years are full. Orozco and subsequently worked a lot on drawings, lithographs, illustrations. Rivera and Siqueiros are also known as graphic artists, and Siqueiros, in addition to drawings and lithographs, performed woodcuts, inspired by the example of Posada. The graphics of the “Great Three” during their intensive work on large cycles of wall paintings is, of course, of considerable interest, since it reveals many aspects of the creative method of monumental painters. Perhaps the lithographs of Diego Rivera – sheets with large images of faces characteristic of the Mexican types – are the most significant.
Among the artists who created wall paintings with Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros, the most interesting graphic is Miguel Covarrubias, the most talented, versatile figure of the 20th century Mexican culture. An archaeologist, ethnographer, author of the classic book on the ancient roots of North American art “The Eagle, the Jaguar and the Snake”, a researcher of the ancient art of Mexico and Central America, a sharp cartoonist, the author of well-known everyday scenes, Kovarrubias managed to contribute to the work of the Workshop of Folk Graphics.