Top Photo: Tribute To Vincent Van Gogh (“Homenaje A Vincent Van Gogh”) by Joaquin Clausell
Known for its ornate detailing and vivid coloring, Mexican art is a unique combination of Old World style and New World creativity. Dating back over a thousand years, Mexican artistry is renowned for its diversity and is celebrated abroad.
While cave drawings existed previously, true Mexican art began in the area known as Mesoamerica in central Mexico around 1500 BC. In this area, cities began to develop and populations grew, providing a rich culture for artistic development. Art at this time was primarily focused on religion or politics, with a heavy basis on nature. Most works of art had religious significance, paying homage to the gods in one way or another. The paintings at this time were two-dimensional and made with pigment from animals, minerals and plants. This simple artistic styling continued until the Colonial times when Mexico was conquered by the Spanish. Once the area was overrun, the Christian influence of Europe spread across the land and subsequently into art. Around this time churches were built with European design influences, though flattened faces were a new architectural element. The heavy influence of Baroque styling can be seen in designs of the time, with the subcategory ultra-Baroque seen in cathedrals. The massive influence of European art didn’t hinder the revolutionary thinking of Mexican artists, as the native people soon fused the styles together. Clay, wood and stone were soon whittled into eye-catching pieces with their own unique styling. Around this time, creativity was finally allowed to take the center stage, peeking out from behind the religious overtones of years before. Mexican rebellion was around the corner and it can be seen in Mexican art at this time. Artistic styles that ruled before the country was conquered were embraced as being truly Mexican and European styles were cast aside. Interestingly enough, the country’s artists did drift back to European imitation for a brief period after winning independence. As communism rose in the country, however, art became markedly political in nature, with murals displaying government propaganda commonly seen. From this, murals grew to be a staple in Mexican art. With their massive size and stunning color schemes, murals continue to be a well-known medium to this day. Artists like Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco led the movement and spread their amazing works around the country and beyond. While males typically dominated the Mexican art scene, Frida Kahlo was respected in her own right for her realistic paintings of Mexican folk culture. To this day, she is celebrated not only as a revolutionary artist but as a feminist icon. As nationalism fell out of favor with artists, surrealism and visual paradoxes gained popularity. The artistry of the country continued to follow the trends of abroad with its own Mexican flair, seeing the rise of Neomexicanismo and Postmodern movements.
- Two Women by Diego Rivera, 1914
- Self Portrait with Monkeys by Frida Kahlo, 1940
- Nude in Orange by Rufino Tamayo, 1959
- Lotus Leaves by Gabriel Orozco, 2004
- Majorcan Fisherman by Roberto Montenegro, 1915
- Groundbreaking muralist Diego Rivera was married to famed painter Frida Kahlo.
- The Olmec people created intricate carvings out of jade.
- Many of the earliest ceramic figurines found were of women with large hips and thighs, likely honoring a fertility god.