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Art History


he Mexican muralists produced some of the most significant public art of the 20th century. Their work had a profound impact on artists in Latin America, the United States, Europe, and Russia. United States artists, particularly those working in the Federal Art Project of the WPA, had close ties with the Mexican muralists. The three most famous Mexican muralists, known as “Los Tres Grandes” (The Three Great Ones), were Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

The experience of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1917 exerted an enormous influence on Mexican artists. Many were committed to creating a national art with indigenous roots that would serve the social and political needs of a new Mexico. A mural program was launched in 1920 by the Mexican government, thanks to the energetic vision of José Vasconcelos, the Minister of Public Education. He commissioned artists to create public art that would unite and educate the people. Artists experimented with techniques used by Italian Renaissance fresco painters and researched pre-Columbian traditions of mural painting in Mexico. Powerful murals were painted on the walls of public buildings throughout the country.

Mexican muralism can be placed in the context of social realist art of the 1920s and 1930s that was prominent in the United States, Germany, and the Soviet Union. Mexican muralists, however, were less constricted by stylistic rules that characterized much of social realism. Vasconcelos gave his artists free rein to pick their own themes and stylistic approaches, resulting in deeply personal interpretations of the Mexican reality.

The work of the muralists continues to have a far-reaching impact on Mexican art.



Pictures of murals in Los Angeles: