There is so much to celebrate in Mexico’s rich and beautiful artistic and literary heritage, as well as a thriving contemporary scene, that we can only scratch the surface here, but we hope to inspire you to delve deeper and find out more! Also, take a look at our Events page to find out what the British Mexican Society is planning.
Mexican muralism is the term used to describe the revival of large-scale mural painting in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s. The three principal artists were José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Rivera is usually considered the chief figure. All three were committed to left-wing ideas in the politically turbulent Mexico of the period and their painting reflects this. Siqueiros in particular pursued an active career in politics, suffering several periods of imprisonment for his activities. Their use of large-scale mural painting in or on public buildings was intended to convey social and political messages to the public. In order to make their work as accessible as possible they all worked in basically realist styles but with distinctively personal differences – for example Orozco has elements of surrealism while Siqueiros is vehemently expressionist.
The movement can be said to begin with the murals by Rivera for the Mexican National Preparatory School and the Ministry of Education, between 1923 and 1928. Orozco and Siqueiros worked with him on the first of these. The Mexican Muralists carried out a number of major works in the USA which helped bring them to wide attention and had some influence on the abstract expressionists. Notable among these are Rivera’s 1932–3 murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts depicting the Ford automobile plant (extant), and at the Rockefeller Center, New York (destroyed on Rockefeller’s orders after a press scandal when a portrait of Lenin was noticed in the mural); Orozco’s The Epic of American Civilisation at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire and his Prometheus at Pomona College California (both extant); and Siqueiros’s 1932 Tropical America in Los Angeles. Siqueiros’s mural – an attack on American imperialism in Mexico – was painted over some time after it was made, but is now undergoing restoration. (Source: Tate.org.uk)
Here is an interesting overview video of the Mexican Muralists. (Source: YouTube: CheN2history)
A true Mexican talent, who became a global icon and inspiration to millions, Frida Kahlo had a fascinating life – much of it linked closely with fellow artist Diego Rivera. The following is a detailed U.S documentary with plenty of original footage and a valuable insight into Kahlo’s life and work. (Source: YouTube)
Known as Britain’s lost surrealist, Women’s Lib champion Leonora Carrington was a rebellious Lancashire-born artist who despite being little known in her native UK was an impressive figure on the Mexican art scene. One of the last surviving (and one of the most prolific) contributors to Mexican surrealism before her death in 2011, her artwork was often revolutionary in its exploration of female sexuality. One of her murals can be seen at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City. (Source: http://www.thecutlturetrip.com)
Featuring rare archive footage, this short film follows Leonora Carrington’s cousin and journalist, Joanna Moorhead, exploring the artist’s story. (Source: YouTube Tate Channel)
Like Madonna, Prince and Banksy before him, Mexican sculptor Sebastián goes by just one name. If that doesn’t say iconic, we don’t know what does. Despite his reputation you’ve probably never heard of him, although you will almost certainly have been witness to one of his many sculptures. Situated in various urban locations all over the world, including his native Mexico, Japan, Buenos Aires and Havana, these massive, predominantly steel or concrete and often geometric sculptures are considered unique to both Mexico and Latin America. Easily his most famous piece is Mexico City’s Caballito. (Source: http://www.theculturetrip.com)
Gabriel Orozco may not be a relation of the aforementioned José Clemente Orozco but he’s an equally iconic, albeit more recent, Mexican artist. Having dabbled in photography, painting, drawing and sculpture in equal measure, you might be forgiven for thinking he’s merely a Jack of all trades, yet you couldn’t be further from the truth. Often referred to as one of this decade’s most influential artists, you can catch his work at the excellent kurimanzutto gallery in Mexico City. (Source: http://www.theculturetrip.com)
During the second half of 20th century, Mexican literature diversified into themes, styles and genres. There were new groups such as Literatura de la Onda (1960s), which was characterised by an urban, satirical and rebellious style; among the featured authors were Parmenides García Saldaña and José Agustín; La mafia cultural (1960s) was composed of Carlos Fuentes, Salvador Elizondo, José Emilio Pacheco, Carlos Monsivais, Inés Arredondo, Fernando Benítez among others. In 1990, Octavio Paz became the only Mexican to date to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Born in March 31, 1914 —died April 19, 1998, Mexico City. Paz was a Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, recognized as one of the major Latin American writers of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990 and received numerous other awards, including the Cervantes Prize.
Born November 11, 1928, Panama City, Panama—died May 15, 2012, Mexico City, Mexico. A Mexican novelist, short-story writer, playwright, critic and diplomat whose experimental novels won him an international literary reputation.
Born on September 30, 1950, in Mexico City, Mexico. Esquivel began writing while working as a kindergarten teacher. She wrote plays for her students and then went on to write children’s television programs during the 1970s and 1980s.
Esquivel often explores the relationship between men and women in Mexico in her work. She is best known for Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), an imaginative and compelling combination of novel and cookbook. After the release of the film version in 1992, Like Water for Chocolate became internationally known and loved. The book has sold more than 4.5 million copies.
Esquivel has continued to show her creative flair and lyrical style in her later work. Accompanied by a collection of music, her second novel The Law of Love (1996) combined romance and science fiction. Between the Fires (2000) featured essays on life, love, and food. Her novel, Malinche (2006), explores the life of a near mythic figure in Mexican history, the woman who served as Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés’s interpreter and mistress.
More recently, Esquivel has entered politics, winning a seat in Mexico City’s Local Council.