Siqueiros, David Alfaro

Siqueiros, David Alfaro Biography

Mexican painter, muralist, and political activist. Together with his Mexican contemporaries Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros is known as one of the three greats of the Mexican mural painting movement. This movement, which began in the 1920s, was sparked by government commissions for large mural decorations in public buildings.

David Alfaro Siqueiros was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. From 1911 to 1913 he studied at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City and in 1913 at the Barbizon School of Santa Anita Ixtapalapa. That same year he joined a protest movement against General Victoriano Huerta, who had recently taken over the presidency of Mexico. This was an early manifestation of Siqueiros's lifelong commitment to left-wing political causes. In 1919 he traveled to Europe, spending time in Paris, France, and Barcelona, Spain, and studying fresco painting in Italy with Diego Rivera. Soon after he returned to Mexico, Siqueiros painted his first mural, The Elements (1922-1923), for the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, where both Rivera and Orozco also painted murals. Although Siqueiros sometimes created smaller, portable paintings, he felt that murals in public buildings, which would be seen by large numbers of people, were his most important work.

In 1936 and early 1937 David Alfaro Siqueiros was in New York City, where he conducted the Siqueiros Experimental Workshop. Through experiments with the use of synthetic industrial paints, spray guns, drip painting, and photomontage, the artists in the workshop developed new techniques for mural painting. Among the workshop members was American painter Jackson Pollock, who later pioneered the movement known as abstract expressionism. Pollock and other abstract expressionist painters adopted a number of these technical innovations.

David Alfaro Siqueiros was repeatedly jailed and deported for left-wing political activities in Mexico. During periods of exile he led painting workshops and received commissions for murals in the United States, Argentina, Cuba, Chile, and other countries. Some of his best-known murals, however, are in Mexico City. In a room with curving walls constructed to his specifications, David Alfaro Siqueiros painted a series of frescoes entitled The Revolution Against the Dictatorship of Porfirio D?az (1957, Museo Nacional de Historia, Mexico City). The series portrays the corruption of the military regime of Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz and his subsequent overthrow by revolutionaries in 1911. He also did many easel paintings, the best known of which is perhaps Echo of a Cry (1937).

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