David Alfaro Siqueiros

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Siqueiros, David Alfaro

 

(full name, José David Alfaro Siqueiros). Born Dec. 29, 1898, in Chihuahua; died Jan. 6, 1974, in Cuernavaca. Mexican painter, graphic artist, and public figure. One of the founders of the Mexican school of mural painting.

Siqueiros studied in Mexico City at the Academy of Fine Arts (1911) and at the Open Air School of Santa Anita (1913). Beginning in 1911 he was active in the revolutionary movement, and from 1914 to 1918 he was an officer in V. Carranza’s army. Siqueiros worked in France and Spain from 1919 to 1922; in 1921 he published a manifesto of revolutionary art in Barcelona. In 1922, after his return to Mexico, he founded the Syndicate of Technical Workers, Artists, and Sculptors, serving as the organization’s general secretary from 1923 to 1925. From 1924, Siqueiros was a leader of the Communist Party of Mexico and editor in chief of the newspaper El Mundo. During the 1920’s he was active in the trade union movement; he was made the general secretary of the Mexican Unitary Trade Union Confederation in 1929. In 1930 he was arrested, and in 1931 he was exiled to Taxco.

Between 1932 and 1936, Siqueiros worked in the USA; he founded an experimental workshop in New York in 1936. He served as an officer of the Republican Army in Spain from 1937 to 1939. His activities in Argentina (1933), Chile (1941-42), and Cuba (1943) greatly influenced the development of mural art in Latin America. Siqueiros visited Moscow in 1927, 1955, 1958, and 1972. In 1960 he was imprisoned in Mexico for his political activity, but in 1964 he was released as a result of international pressure. In 1967, Siqueiros was made an honorary member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR; in 1966 he received the International Lenin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Nations.

A fighter for revolutionary art imbued with communist ideological content, Siqueiros created images marked by heightened expressiveness and great plastic force. He was a firm believer in the active influence of works of art on the masses. His monumental compositions combine representations of actual persons with symbolic embodiments of social-historical forces; they are marked by the use of dynamically shortened perspective, the bold combination of painting and sculptural forms, and the introduction of new artistic materials (synthetic paints, ceramic relief mosaic). In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Siqueiros’ treatment of historical events and personages took on a heightened expressiveness, and the political content of his work was intensified.

Siqueiros’ principal works in Mexico City include the murals in the National Preparatory School (fresco, 1922-23), the Electrical Workers Union building (1939), the Palace of Fine Arts (1945 and 1950–51), and the National History Museum (begun 1959), the mosaic and relief on the facade of the chancellor’s building at the University of Mexico (1952–54), and the monumental-decorative structure Poliforum, which combines architecture, painting, and sculpture (1971). Works by Siqueiros in the Museum of Modern Art include the easel paintings Proletarian Mother (1929–30) and Portrait of G. Gershwin (1936). The artist also did numerous lithographs and drawings.

WORKS

Como se pinta un mural. Mexico City, 1951.
L’art et la revolution. Paris, 1973.

REFERENCES

Zhadova, L. Monumental’naia zhivopis’ Meksiki. Moscow, 1965.
Polevoi V. Iskusstvo stran Latinskoi Ameriki. Moscow, 1967.
David Sikeiros. [Leningrad, 1969.]
Tibol, R. DavidAlfaro Siqueiros. Mexico City [1969].

V. M. POLEVOI [23–1056–]