David Alfaro Siqueiros

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David Alfaro Siqueiros

David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), one of the great Mexican mural painters, introduced technical innovations in his murals and easel paintings.

David Alfaro Siqueiros was born in Chihuahua. He was educated at the National School of Fine Arts, Mexico City, and did further study in Spain, Italy, and France. He served as an officer in Venustiano Carranza's army (1910-1916) and as military attachéin Paris (1917).

As one of the artists who collaborated in painting the murals for the staircase at the National Preparatory School, Mexico City (1922), Siqueiros became one of the founders of the mural movement in Mexico. He served as secretary general of the Painter's Syndicate and became one of the editors of its publication, El machete. With Amado de la Cueva he organized the Alliance of Painters in Guadalajara in 1925, and there he worked with De la Cueva and Carlos Orozco on decorations for the University of Guadalajara. Siqueiros served as a representative of various workers' organizations to Russia in 1928 and as a delegate to workers' meetings in South America in 1929. In 1931 he was exiled to Taxco for political reasons.

Siqueiros was a professor at the Chouinard School of Art, Los Angeles (1932-1933), where he developed new technical processes for outdoor murals, including the use of airbrushes to apply paint. Beginning in 1934 he devoted himself more and more to easel painting and carried out various experiments with Duco paint, for example, Echo of a Scream (1937).

Siqueiros was a delegate from the Congress of Mexican Artists to the Congress of Revolutionary Artists in New York City in 1936, and there he established a school in which he set forth his revolutionary artistic ideas. In 1937 he joined the Spanish Republican Army. From 1939 to 1944 he resided in Cuba and Chile.

The principal works by Siqueiros in Mexico City are the Trial of Fascism in the Electrical Workers Union building (1939), Cuauhtémoc against the Myth in Sonora No. 9 (1944), New Democracy in the Palace of Fine Arts (1945), Patricians and Patricides in the former Customs House (1945), Ascent of Culture in the National University of Mexico (1952-1956), and Future Victory of Medical ScienceAgainst Cancer in the Medical Center (1958). His best-known mural outside Mexico City, Death to the Invader, is in Chillán, Chile (1941-1942).

From 1960 to 1964 Siqueiros was imprisoned by the Mexican government for the crime of "social dissolution," but later he completed a mural commissioned by the Mexican government at Chapultepec Castle. In 1969 he spoke at the First National Painting Contest, in which some 7,000 artists from all parts of Mexico participated.

His next major work was The March of Humanity on the Congress Hall of Mexico City, one of the first buildings ever built specifically to house a mural. Incorporating different materials and methods, it united architecture, sculpture, and painting in what was called "a baroque and futuristic extrapolation of realism." In 1968 he became president of the Academy of Arts in Mexico City. A retrospective of his work was shown at the Center for Inter-American Relations, and a three-dimensional mural was permanently installed in the Siqueiros Center in Mexico City.

Further Reading

For more information on Siqueiros, see Shifra Goldman, Contemporary Mexican Painting in Time of Change, Austin, (1981). Jean Charlot, The Mexican Mural Renaissance, 1920-1925 (1963), is an excellent source for Siqueiros's early career. Material on Siqueiros is also in Bernard S. Myers, Mexican Painting in Our Time (1956); Alma M. Reed, The Mexican Muralists (1960); and Justino Fernández, A Guide to Mexican Art: From Its Beginnings to the Present (2d ed. 1961; trans. 1969). □

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David Alfaro Siqueiros

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