Mexican art and architecture

Mexican art and architecture,

works of art and structures produced in the area that is now the country of Mexico. Such arts were already highly developed in the ancient civilizations flourishing before the conquest of Cortés. For the artistic achievements of the AztecAztec
, Indian people dominating central Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest. Their language belonged to the Nahuatlan subfamily of Uto-Aztecan languages. They arrived in the Valley of Mexico from the north toward the end of the 12th cent.
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, the MayaMaya
, indigenous people of S Mexico and Central America, occupying an area comprising the Yucatán peninsula and much of the present state of Chiapas in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, parts of El Salvador, and extreme western Honduras.
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, and other native cultures, see pre-Columbian art and architecturepre-Columbian art and architecture,
works of art and structures created in Central and South America before the arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. For many years the regions that are now Mexico and Guatemala and the Andean region of South America had been the cradle
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.

The Colonial Period

Folk arts, including the weaving of magnificent textiles, pottery making, and silver work have flourished in Mexico throughout its history, but with the coming of the Spanish to Mexico the native peoples were introduced to European art, especially painting, and building techniques. A good many Spanish paintings were brought there, and during the 17th cent. gifted native artists became adept at religious oil painting, modeling religious figures in wax, and the art of polychrome wood sculpture (see Spanish colonial art and architectureSpanish colonial art and architecture,
fl. 16th–early 19th cent., the artistic production of Spain's colonies in the New World. These works followed the historical development of styles previously established in Spain, but developed original features in different regions.
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).

The serenity and sensitivity of the early native art combined with the Spanish influence to give to Mexican painting a mellowness and richness of color not yet achieved in Spain at that time. Fifty years or so before Murillo made his mark as a colorist, Mexican artists were already giving their works rich red and blue tones. This type of work is sometimes referred to as Mexican baroque to distinguish it from the more rigid European baroquebaroque
, in art and architecture, a style developed in Europe, England, and the Americas during the 17th and early 18th cent.

The baroque style is characterized by an emphasis on unity among the arts.
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.

Baltásar de Echave the elder (c.1548–1620) is considered to be the first great Mexican artist; he founded the first native school in 1609. His Agony in the Garden (begun 1582) is an example of a Renaissance work with a Spanish character. More important, however, was the work of Alonso Vázquez (c.1565–1608). Painting declined toward the middle of the 17th cent., and sculpture and architecture gained ascendancy; the dominant style in both was the Churrigueresque (named after José ChurrigueraChurriguera, José Benito
, 1665–1725, Spanish architect and sculptor. A native of Madrid, he won fame for his design (1689) of the great catafalque for Queen Maria Luisa and for his ornate retables, characterized by twisted columns and elaborate leafwork.
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), a fanciful form of the baroque, but Mexican plateresqueplateresque
[Span.,=silversmith], earliest phase of Spanish Renaissance architecture and decoration, in the early 16th cent. Its richness of effect was primarily based upon the work of the Italian Renaissance, mingled, however, with surviving Moorish and late Gothic design.
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 art and architecture also appeared. The 18th cent. produced a large number of artists; outstanding among them were José Ibarra and Miguel Cabrera. A period of academic art followed, producing no very distinctive works; this period of imitation was broken at the close of the 19th cent. by the painter José María VelascoVelasco, José María
, 1840–1912, Mexican landscape painter; teacher of Diego Rivera. A gifted artisan descended from a family of shawl weavers, he entered the art academy of San Carlos in 1858. His early work is reminiscent of Corot.
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, whose landscapes again reaffirmed a national style.

Independence, Empire, and Revolution

Toward the end of the 19th cent. the political broadside became a popular and pungent native art. José Guadalupe PosadaPosada, José Guadalupe
, 1852–1913, Mexican artist. Of peasant stock, he became one of the greatest popular artists of the Americas and influenced the generation of Orozco and Rivera.
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 was famous for his satirical prints. With the coming of independence, architecture went into a general decline, but wealthy creoles were responsible for the erection of a profusion of luxurious mansions, some of them of great beauty.

In the latter half of the 19th cent., during the ill-starred regime (1864–67) of Emperor Maximilian, the heavy splendor of French Second Empire architecture was imported into Mexico. The famous gardens and castle at ChapultepecChapultepec
[Aztec,=grasshopper hill], 1,600 acres (650 hectares), park in Mexico City. It was originally developed as a residence for Aztec rulers. A castle built on a hill there in the late 18th cent.
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 were beautified by the emperor and made even more lavish by the dictator Porfirio Díaz, under whose administration (1876–1911) the French accent became stronger, especially in the mansions along the famous Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. The influence of art nouveauart nouveau
, decorative-art movement centered in Western Europe. It began in the 1880s as a reaction against the historical emphasis of mid-19th-century art, but did not survive World War I.
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 is evident in the portentous and elaborately decorated Palacio de Bellas Artes, also commissioned by Díaz but not completed until 1930.

After the revolution of 1910 Mexican artists enjoyed unusually strong government patronage and were, as a result, committed principally to the expression of revolutionary ideals. The foremost were muralists employing broad techniques in the service of their political and social themes. The three internationally acclaimed painters Diego RiveraRivera, Diego
, 1886–1957, Mexican mural painter, studied as a youth with Posada and other Mexican painters; husband of Frida Kahlo. The native sculpture of Mexico deeply impressed him.
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, José Clemente OrozcoOrozco, José Clemente
, 1883–1949, Mexican muralist, genre painter, and lithographer, grad. Mexican National Agricultural School. He became an architectural draftsman and in 1908 turned to painting. With Diego Rivera he led the renaissance of modern Mexican art.
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, and David Alfaro SiqueirosSiqueiros, David Alfaro
, 1896–1974, Mexican painter, b. Chihuahua. Siqueiros was among Mexico's most original and eminent painters. His career as an artist was always related to his vigorous socialist revolutionary activities.
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 produced masterpieces of mural art and initiated a revival of fresco painting. Miguel CovarrubiasCovarrubias, Miguel
, 1902–57, American artist and writer, b. Mexico City. Largely self-taught, he went to New York City in 1923 and won prompt recognition as a brilliant illustrator, stage designer, and caricaturist.
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 attained international fame as a caricaturist and illustrator, and Dr. Atl (pseud. of Gerardo Murillo) was influential as a teacher and art critic as well as a painter. Francisco Goita was noted for his paintings stressing the hardships of Native American peasant existence.

Later Mexican Art and Architecture

Modern Mexican painters and sculptors continued to produce an extraordinary variety of works in many styles and techniques. Major figures included José Luis Cuevas, Jorge G. Camarena, Martínez de Hoyos, Frida KahloKahlo, Frida
, 1907–54, Mexican painter, b. Coyoacán. As a result of an accident at age 15, Kahlo turned her attention from a medical career to painting. Drawing on her personal experiences, her works are often shocking in their stark portrayal of pain and the harsh
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 (Diego Rivera's wife), Enrique Echeverría, Leonora Carrington, Francisco Toledo, and Rodolfo Morales. Rufino TamayoTamayo, Rufino
, 1899–1991, Mexican painter, b. Oaxaca. Considered one of the leading Mexican artists of the 20th cent., Tamayo first gained his reputation in the United States and in Europe before he was acclaimed in his native land.
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 and Gunther Gerzo were outstanding figures in 20th-century abstract and semi-abstract easel painting.

Modern architecture has also flourished. Functionalism, expressionism, and other schools have left their imprint on a large number of works in which Mexican stylistic elements have been combined with European and North American techniques. In the great manufacturing center of Monterrey there are fine examples of industrial architecture. Perhaps the most outstanding achievement of contemporary Mexican architecture is the Ciudad Universitaria outside Mexico City, a complex of buildings and grounds housing the National Autonomous Univ. of Mexico. A cooperative venture, the project was directed by Carlos Lazo. A major structure is the central library, with a brilliant mosaic facade by the architect and painter Juan O'GormanO'Gorman, Juan,
1905–82, Mexican architect. Trained by Villagran Garcia, O'Gorman produced designs adapting the International style to Mexican requirements. O'Gorman's most notable work is the University Library, Mexico City (1952), with its elaborate, fantastic mosaic facade.
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. Another architect of note is Felix CandelaCandela, Felix
(Félix Candela Outeriño) , 1910–97, Mexican-American architect, b. Madrid. Candela studied in Madrid but was forced to flee Spain after his participation in the Spanish civil war.
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, who designed the expressionistic church Nuestra Señora de los Milagros.

See also National Museum of AnthropologyNational Museum of Anthropology,
Mexico City. The present building, designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and inspired by ancient Mexican architecture, was opened in 1964 and houses choice and extensive archaeological remains of pre-Columbian Mexico.
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.

Bibliography

See B. Myers, Mexican Painting in Our Time (1956); M. Cetto, Modern Architecture in Mexico (tr. 1961); G. Dörner, Folk Art of Mexico (tr. 1963); J. Fernandez, A Guide to Mexican Art (tr. 1969).

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