Edited by John Charlot, 2009


Editors Note: When Yale University Press accepted The Mexican Mural Renaissance, 1920–1925 (MMR) for publication, it demanded that the typescript be reduced considerably in length.  Besides a chapter and three appendices, many smaller cuts were made in the typescript.  Appendix II: Orozcos Stylistic Evolution was later published under the same title in College Art Journal, Volume 9, Number 2, Winter 1949/50, p. 148–157.  Some passages from omitted sections were transferred to new positions in the final text or to later articles.  But much of the material remained unpublished, to Charlots expressed regret. 

Charlot himself extracted the pages from which smaller cuts were made and collected them in a folder, now labeled J.C. Mex. Mural Ren. –– Unpublished Material, which is in the Jean Charlot Collection.  Those cut passages are all included here between the preceding and following words of the published text.  I have included several passages that were much modified in the publication.  Passages are identified by the page number of the 1967 edition of MMR followed by that of the typescript (e.g., 73/153).  I have regularly used the final version, passing over earlier changes in silence.  I have done some light editing, mostly spelling corrections, and have been obliged in a few passages to modify the punctuation or formatting for clarity.  I do not provide the original references from footnotes. 


315–318/6–10.  The last pages of the introduction were used for the last chapter, Conclusion. 


316/6 f.

This is no longer a way to art.

None of the successive standards of XXth C European painting––as it sprang alive out of Czanne––are fit to assay the mural achievement of Mexico; but certainly some other standard should be tried before wholesale condemnation is given.  To paint in Mexico is not the same as to paint in Paris.  The non-Greek nature of the Indian cultural subsoil, the planting of the Cross in the New World a thousand years after its recovery by Saint Helena, the bivalency of the race, the hot revolutionary breath of 1910 that tumbled ivory towers as easily as the wolf blew away the house of straw––these are bound to qualify the Mexican work.  If a European expert fails to find here this apple he calls art, art may yet perchance be there in some other kind of fruit, one that has a name only in Indian idioms, and with a taste to upset the stomach of all apple-fanciers.


back to the lesser way. 

Facts are gathered in this book in a slightly different order from that favored by authors who rearrange art history in courteous fashion at the feet of some imperial presence, as an Orozco seen through the eye of Justino Fernandez, or the Rivera of whom Bertram Wolfe tells.  As Mexicos historians go, this book follows rather the democratic musings of a Bernal Daz praising en masse his past comrades-at arm[s] than it does the egocentric court-digests of Hernando Cortez. 

Aesthetics plays its role 


lightens the task of the artist.  Perhaps it does: in New York, I marveled with others before a West 57th Street store, whose window had been sublet to someone dressed in the full regalia of a charro, with embroidered leather riding outfit, vast hat, and sarape de Saltillo.  He deftly glued feathers on post cards and transformed them with a few routine touches of watercolor into the semblance of tropical birds.  A sign, stuck to the glass pane against which were pressed the noses of curious spectators, read, Mexican Painter at Work.  Despite this commonly held 


Napoleons comment––already tried out by the Emperor on Goethe––Monsieur David, vous tes un homme !


Mayan culture confronted by the Aztec, that latecomer on the Mexican scene.  For there showed to be more in common between the Aztec and the Spaniard, when the latter landed, than there had been between the two rival Indian cultures.  The Aztec was squatty, the Mayan filiform, of green gold contrasting with the Aztecs dark copper, metaphysically inclined whereas the Aztec was military.  The Mayan had a beak nose, bulging eyes, and a brain that shot its skull backward, unlike the snub-nosed, slit-eyed, round-topped Aztec.  Of course, the Aztecs conquered the Mayans; though the latter fought hard with hand-propelled javelins, the former sprang on them a superior type of mechanized warfare, to wit, the bow and arrow.

Their tastes were antithetic.  Mayan parallels of Washington Crossing the Delaware show the redcoats, the Aztecs, as naked funny dwarfs with a few hairs hanging Chinese-wise from lip and chin; whereas an Aztec warrior billeted in one of Chichn Itzs desecrated temples vented his disgust for the slim effetes frescoed on Mayan processional friezes by scratching deep into the beautifully painted mortar a brutal graffito of Aztec manhood. 

Their arts were antithetic 

11/27 f.

a national renaissance.

That same month Charles Michel wrote, However remote, one feels a moving reminiscence, the twinkle of a star gradually unfurling to splendor, that is the belated opening of the recondite soul of the ancient race of Anahuac! 

Renato Molina, in May of that year: Diego Riverais revitalizing fresco painting just as it was practiced by the ancient Mexicans. 

Dr. Atl in July  


friends and foes alike?

In the early murals we painted, the pre-Hispanic factor is not as decisive as contemporary opinion implied, though our good will did result in transporting some archeological data from Museum to wall.  In 1924 Rivera installed Yoloxochitl, god of flowers, in a jungle where he seems as little at home as Yagdiva and her sofa in Rousseaus. 

Of more import are a few forms where pre-Hispanic and post-cubist aesthetics fuse organically.  First in date, even though they are not murals, are the pictures that Carlos Mrida painted about 1919.  They put to new creative uses the heraldic colors and unbroken outline found in codices. 

Rabid in its pro-Indian subject matter, my own 1922 fresco contains creative passages that parallel the forms and moods of diorite masks.  Then came Rivera 


the roses flung by Our Lady?

Precious to Mexican oneness, this dovetailing of allegedly incompatible cultures has been expressed by Saturnino Herrn in a painting, Our Gods, as well known as it is mediocre.  It combines in a single composite figure Christ and Coatlicue.

The religious impulse


pink and blue of carpentered drapes. 

Though in oil and on canvas, these paintings are eminently mural, even the smallest adhering to the same canons of proportion that dictate the vastness of the nave, as water rings enlarge without breaking the concentric rhythm.

Tresguerras painted directly the walls of a side chapel finished in 1811.  Classified by some as fresco, the technique makes use of lime that gives a mat and chalky finish, but seems rather a fresco secco, a kind of lime tempera, as it does not parcel the wall into areas corresponding to working days.  Death is the leitmotiv

24/47 f.

a magenta turns Nattier blue. 

The artists resolve to reform bred a swarm of cottonwad clouds, but a temperamental bluntness still jars this atmospheric peace.  Among well-behaved drapes, one vermilion scarf sticks out a feeler of cast iron; if the jolly angels changed mood and threw harps and cellos at the faithful underneath, one would witness the crash of a hardware stock.  Such strident notes in an otherwise chastened ensemble are what still endear the work to us today.

San Fernando had more success 


(Text fig. III). 

The muralists committed many similar leftist faux-pas.  The head was willing enough to nod to Marxism, but the hand, being that of a true artist, would lapse into the traditionally pious vocabulary of reredos and retablos. 

Communist Rivera painted in his first mural the cardinal virtues.

27/52 f. 

its maximum efficiency. 

Certainly a claim that religious forms of art were the models best suited for the new murals would have met with coolness in the radical circles that sponsored the work.  How could politicians distinguish style and function from content when, as we have seen, the artists themselves could hardly do it either?  That they could neither acknowledge openly nor throw overboard colonial influences explains the near lapsus linguae found in the first draft of the constitutions of the artists syndicate, as they themselves had written it:

The Syndicate of Revolutionary Painters, Sculptors and Engravers of Mexico advances the following principles on style: make art for the delectation of the people; technique should conform to this aim; produce a plasticity understandable to the masses, Indians and peasants, in a style as simple and clear as a good Christian sermon, which is like a good Marxist lecture. 


to curl around a tree. 

Bent on painting walls as eloquent as colonial plastic sermons, as architectural as Aztec carvings, the muralists were partial to what within each tradition suited best their purpose.  Of the pre-Hispanic output, they picked the gigantic rather than the delicate, extracted out of the colonial arts the exalted and the bloody from under a silt of petit point, snuffbox, and potpourri. 

In folk art


her wish was happily granted. 

The growing understanding of retablos is gauged by the following quotations: 

1920.  A critic, Louis Lara Pardo, describes a bad painting: This little picture has the mangy appearance of a church retablo. 

1921.  Atls book contains a more sympathetic account but still far from complimentary: 

Ex-votosare pictorial works of great interest because of their incredible navet.  Subject matter, coloring, perspective, attitudes of the personages, all are of a laughable absurdity.  Even the caption redacted in Biblical style proves generally at odds with the facts depicted. 

Rivera was the first 

37/67 f. 

popular art in modern Mexico City.  [Fig. 6] 

That a photographer like Weston, jealous of the supremacy of his medium, mentions pulquera realism approvingly is proof enough that it was not of the photographic kind.  The Mexican has always shown a strong selective taste in pictorial matters, as did the Greeks, but in reverse.  Couto justly remarked in 1860 that Aztec art featured ungenteel objects of disagreeable appearance.  In the codices blood gushes as liberally as wine in a French bacchic song.  In much of the Mexican fine arts survives a toughness and roughness mistaken by outsiders for provincial primitivism.  But that it is rather racial genius is shown in the case of Cordero, who starts painting in a refined Italian manner, to let go in his maturity in the biggest and maddest pulquera painting of them all, the dome of Santa Teresa. 

Of all the manifestations of folk arts

37/69 ff. 

on consecrated walls. 

Do the paintings of the muralists show as great an influence from folk painting as their enthusiastic endorsement in words would lead us to suppose?

In the case of arts that have run their course, those of dead cultures and closed periods, the influence exerted is of a pedagogical nature, easy to spot.  It is simpler to estimate the quota of Aztec and of colonial arts in the modern mural style than that of folk art, whose forms were still in flux, and its makers alive, linked to the same present as were the muralists. 

The interest of artists in folk forms was no novelty.  Valid germs of recognition between folk and fine arts fill the lithographic albums of mid-nineteenth century, Mxico y sus Alrededores; Mxico Pintoresco.  Such beautiful graphic works might have ended by creating a true national art but for the hiatus of marbleized neo-Greek and gilded rococo that followed.

Paralleling the lithographic medium in fresco, the courts of the Ministry are filled with a similar subject matter to that of the old albums: picturesque types and costumes, the crafts of weavers, potters, and dyers, folk dances, sandunga, Yaqui hunting dance, dance of the ribbons.  But more important than subject matter, which can be caught equally well by the camera, is the absorption of a mood and of a style.  The Rivera frescoes of 1923–24 are painted with a certain innocent awkwardness.  They share with the retablos, penny pamphlets, and pulquera murals a lack of preoccupation with artistic sciences, anatomy, perspective, good drawing. 

Revueltas put his first mural under the protection of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  His fat easy stroke and splendid coloring-pattern renew the pulquera palette and style to fit the size and mood of the gigantic retablo that was his mural.  As successful in its synthesis of folk forms as are the frescoes of Siqueiros in adapting pre-Cortesian ones, this mural is less known; the potentialities it presented were never followed to a conclusion in later murals, while those of the Siqueiros frescoes were exploited to the utmost, though not always by himself. 

When Siqueiros started his staircase he contracted a mason and a pulquera painter.  The latter covered two side walls with make-believe pillars and perspectives quite in his own taste, to the delight of Siqueiros, who would urge him on with such purposely vague indications as Raise a bulge here, punch a hole there.  The work blended excellently with the walls that Siqueiros was painting at the time, and is the most genuine of our folk borrowings.

In a way more important than any single detail folk arts influenced the whole of our production in regard to mood and social content 


that of humility.  The strength of folk arts came of racial characteristics that the artist learned to be not too proud to echo.  The popular achievement, based on anonymity and communal feeling, taught us that in art also one may lose oneself to find oneself.

43/78 f.  

an ensured contact with the next generation.  Most Mexican artists up to the present could endorse Corderos dedication, embodied in his first important picture, sent from Rome in 1850, To the Academy of San Carlos, this testimonial of gratitude.  

Even at its ebb  


Ramos could hardly be overrated as a catalyst.  Ramos was always a healthy leaven of opposition.  In 1910, Cornyn praises him as the most promising artist of the realist school, of an inspiration drenched with light and color.  That same year the painter held a show of his European work in San Carlos, including his Primavera, that had been commended at the Paris Salon the year before.

Apropos of this show, Araujo captured in retrospect the mood of the moment, now more eloquent than the paintings themselves:

Academism was further shaken by the publicized arrival of works done in Paris by holders of fellowshipsAt the dawn of the revolution these works were wholeheartedly endorsed by adolescents whose despair gave vent to violent manifestations against the entrenched academic system, truly execrable and by then a paralytical valetudinarian. 

That a diluted impressionism could still cut a revolutionary figure at that date in Mexico only makes clear the continued iron grip of academism on official art.

Once in power


the impressionism it sponsored was neither derivative nor decadent.  The secret of this hardiness may be found in the opinion voiced by Vera de Cordova in his review of Coyoacns contribution to the Fine Arts Show of October 1921: A group slightly influenced by Manet, Pizarro (sic), Sisley, Renoir, etc.––even though it be by telepathy.  The lack of originals by the masters that the students followed had preserved perforce their originality, and the transformation in Cordovas text of Pissarro, the mild patriarch, into the conquistador of Peru, is both a misspelling and a significant statement. 

When General Obregn 


copal censers.  Mxico Moderno admits the viability of such archaeological data, but only with caution:

Granted that Enciso can introduce a Mexica motif in each one of his works without making them ugly, it is obvious that, become a system, such a habit would be objectionable. 

The fact enthused the poet Jos Juan Tablada 


when the buildings were remodeled (Text fig. V). 

Deer, parrots, vultures and volcanoes, owls and pines, quetzals and fig-bushes, squirrels and mezquite, turkeys and fountains, were themes chosen for the boys school.  For girls, there were rabbits and open fields, monkeys and branches, coyotes, birds and magnolias, spider-webs and butterflies, cranes and lakes, eagles and cacti, Mayas modeling and decorating pottery. 

In 1912 Cosmos Magazine 


the painter who was most Mexican.  Manuel Toussaint stated in 1921, unaware of what was to come: 

When he refused to leave his country, Herrn made it impossible for Europe to tear apart from us his spirit and his art, as it has done with Zrraga, Diego Rivera, and many another artist who is Mexican by birth, but by fame and works is European.

Herrns version


why they should cultivate the milieu of their birth in preference to any other.  Would that there were an artistic renaissance to correspond to the Americanist literary renaissance!...Would that artists gave us sensations felt in their patria!  A prominent aspect 


The Citizen President of the Republic will attend. 

El Universal detailed the coming attractions:

Scattered in Chapultepec Park many booths will be built and decorated under the supervision of the artist Adolfo Best; ladies of our high society will keep the booths, selling flowers, confetti, etc.; so that nothing be lacking to the picturesqueness of the celebration, it is proposed that the ladiesbe arrayed not only in the classical costume of China Poblana, but that some come as Tehuanas, or in peasant dress, or dressed in the style of the northern states, or as Mestizas, and that the booths be decorated with zarapes, petates, rebozos, flags and many other art objects of genuine national flavor. 

The feast took place on the evening of the 27th.  A gate crasher was an American stunt flyer in his lighted plane, who bore the Yankee nom de guerre of Mr. Pickup.  The next morning Excelsior records the gasps of the crowd:

––Oh, Mr. Pickup!

––Bravo Mr. Pickup!

––How pretty––How brave!

And Mr. Pickup became the hero of the night. 

But the other attractions


fireworks filled the night sky. 

As a sequel to this success, in 1922 the Best system was adopted by the public schools of the Federal District and called Mexican Drawing.  In July, class work was displayed at the inauguration of the new building of the Ministry of Public Education and revealed to the public the scope of the reform begun.  A textbook was published in July 1923 under the title Drawing Method. Tradition Revival and Evolution of Mexican Art, illustrated with most attractive vignettes by Miguel Covarrubias, who made here his debut.  Urea vaticinated, And so this book is born at last to point the way towards further efforts of Nationalism in Mexico and all America. 

Printed at 15,000 copies, the first edition was distributed to teachers of the new method in a ceremony held at the auditorium of the Preparatoria School on November 6, 1923.  In his presentation speech, Orozco Muoz said prettily of the teachers that they brought to official schools something like an offering of grace and happinessthese schools where children still applied themselves to copy the nostrils, ears, hands, feet, even, of a great and noble race that is not youngEach day, each hour 


An important task of the nationalists proved to be the reappraisal of folk art.  Atl justly remarked in 1921 that under Daz a certain social wickedness came into play, relegating native ingenuity to the ranks of the untouchables.  Best Maugard notes in 1923:

Those born with an artistic gift systematically shunned popular artsNot long ago, the most original and beautified samples of this magnificent art were considered out of fashion and in bad taste.

The turning point 


after the fashion of the exhibition.  But more important, the exhibition proved to be a first public step towards official recognition for our National Art, and marks a starting point for its further evolution and transformation.  [Atl] 

After its close

65/109 f. 

which made a wealth of untapped patterns and designs available to painters.  Roberto Montenegro and his followers base new ornamental motifs on Tonal pottery and Uruapan lacquer trays.  Jorge Enciso and his group are inspired by Michoacn embroideries and primitive art, Adolph Best and others by a miscellany of ceramics and lacquers. 

Stylistically, Nationalism found 

66/110 f.  

for its timidity. 

Araujo spoke for the muralists:

Nationalism deserves praise inasmuch as it focuses attention on local beauty and traditionbut Mexicanists have been partial to picturesqueness and to what differentiates us most obviously from foreigners, and have picked eccentric spectacles as all the more genuine, a fact that dovetails neatly with the touristic point of view. 

Orozco spat on the picturesqueness 


rather to make or decorate a buildingNotwithstanding social upheavals, aesthetic manifestations display greatness and permanency insomuch as they answer religious, political or social needsIt is necessary that the criterium that informs future teaching be an answer to the social needs of the republic.  Mexico is not geared to produce the same art phenomena that Paris produces, and that impregnates vaguely the spirit of many artists. 

Reform must come  

70/117 f. 

shouldered a gun and believed in the Revolution. 

Granted that the medium be murals requiring vast walls, and the subject matter one of interest to the people at large, it follows that private patronage would bow to government sponsorship.  An accepted fact in the period of mural renaissance, official patronage had already been attempted, for example, in the ill-fated 1910 auditorium incident.  Key men of revolutionary art, Montenegro, Atl, Martnez, Rivera, were picked, groomed, and pensioned to Europe by Daz officials, who thus gave them unwittingly the means of forming an ampler point of view, one that turned them eventually against their very benefactors.  The pensioning of Siqueiros to Europe and the first important commission given Orozco were acts of First Chief Carranza, decreed between rounds in the royal melee fought with Villa, Gutirrez, and Zapata.

An awareness of the mural medium, of social consciousness, and of government patronage already existed before the reconstruction period.  The portents that heralded 


the prophetic vision of the young artists of America. 

Of his own exhibition he had this to say:

I do not presume, as some may believe, to unearth archaeologies.  My paintings blend an undiluted observation of nature with a devout love of our autochthonous art. 

The catalogue was filled 


to match the robustness of our great racial giftsLiving apart from the new tendencies of solid orientation, we prejudge them adversely, adopting only phony European trends that poison our youth, hide primordial values 


stripped of architectural complexities (vast piers of steel and cement anchored to earth), the  comfort-conditioned tools and furnitureAbove all, we must remain firmly convinced

73/121 f. 

(Mayan, Aztec, Inca, etc., etc.); our climatological identification with them will help us assimilate the constructive vigor of their work; their clear elemental knowledge of nature will be our own starting point.  Let us borrow


caricature to humanize.

The third appeal was curtly entitled 3:

Our schools in the open air are outdoor academies (as dangerous as the official academies, which brought us, at least, in contact with the classics), collectivities where teachers are out for gain, the criterion imposed meager, lethal to latent personalities

We must reject theories postulating the relativity of a national art and become universal!  Racial and local traits will stamp our work none the less

We must strip off literary motives, deal with pure plasticity 


coming into its ownWe are such complex creatures, sighs the modern Ruskin, that only a complex, highly sensitized art can captureall the subtle nuances of our moodsGentlemen  


syndicates of artists-craftsmen.  Thus the Siqueiros manifesto: We must conform our work to inviolable laws of esthetic balance as did the classics, become as skilled laborers as they 


set on returning to such a discipline. 

Men of such experience wield an inevitable influence on men lacking in experience; that a master should teach apprentices is proper, and natural that the latter should learn from the former. 

Our belief


the Revolution in its period of armed action.  He carried to an integrated peak the difficult relationship between fine arts and the brutal tempo of his times.  I feel that the artist set out to reproduce in his life and in his work the countenance of the revolution as a stigmatist bleeds in emulation of the Crucified.  A landowner 


by clinging to aesthetics.  Of his early meditations on the subject, he has preserved a draft written about 1905: As I look with loving insight at the core of the object, I conceive of it as a function of beauty; its atomic equilibrium shifts.  A chunk of machinery is metamorphosed into a rhythm of jubilation.  But politics

89/143 f. 

perfection to invention. 

Even in education, art took precedence over pedagogy. 

In the department of fine arts, singing, drawing and gymnastics are taught.  I understand of course that a good teacher cannot be a good musician and a good landscape painter as well.  There were at hand hundreds of trained musicians and able artists and I decided to use this wasted talent.  To the oft repeated objection that neither musician nor painter has pedagogical experience, that they cannot teach because they ignore the methodology of music and of drawing, we answer that we rate music over the methodology of music and drawing over the methodology of drawing. 

Never before had a patron


When his extensive building program was criticized for being planned with the help of artists, he answered: It is said that I use painters to plan architecture.  For this I do not lack impressive precedents, and such honor makes [up] for the lack of originality of the procedure.  Architecture is an art and art needs artists more than diplomasIt is my conviction 


with that of the mason. 

Problems are raised by the success of Vasconcelos in handling painters, a success at variance with most governmental inroads into art patronage.  Well posted as the Secretary was in regard to music and literature, his personal interest in the plastic arts is not enough to explain this success.  For the private taste of the Secretary was that of the average dilettante.  He approved wholeheartedly of Baksts kaleidoscopic Ballets Russes dcor and found Michelangelo guilty of gigantomania.

Far from bringing political credit 


disinterested and beautiful.  These are the necessary poles of every thinkable thing: the material order of necessity and the spiritual order of beautyThey are antithetic.  The law that governs the former is the law of causality, of necessity.  The law that governs the latter is disinterest, a lack of finality. 

A statesman as well as a philosopher. 


and too often a style as well.  Few can, like Raphael in the Vatican stanzas, combine a convincing display of the virtues of a protector with superb aesthetic indolence.  To remain Pythagorean 


eager to rehabilitate didactic painting.  They considered that public walls should receive themes of public import, clearly expressed, and their inspiration was willingly groomed to toe the mark of a party line.  For once artists and patron 


the scream of the Mexican eagle.

Even after its waning, one can surmise that Vasconcelos remained at heart partial to the nationalist style.  Because it was both national (and in that sense revolutionary) and well bred, the Secretary would have welcomed a renaissance on such dainty terms.  It is much to his credit that, unprepared for the avalanche of uglyism that descended later on his beloved buildings, he did not stifle it, but furthered it instead, in spite of grave inner misgivings. 

The first aesthetic decision 


to many an odd use.  The chapel

served from 1821 to 1829 as meeting chambers for the National Congress, became a combination dance hall and theater, returned to the cult from 1832 to 1850, under the name of our Lady of Loreto.  Disaffected that year, it served as public hall and library, and in 1857 was adapted for a girls school.  It functioned as military college from 1858 to 1860, then as combination barracks and hospital, later as food storage for the French army.  It was the workshop of the correctional school in 1884, when it was turned again into barracks.

In June 1920 


Alfonso Cravioto exclaimed: A most fecund nationalist tendency worthy of all praise.  The use of our characteristic flora, of our aboriginal types, of our local color, results in great decorative success and excellent composition.  A triumphant climax 


in New York at great cost. 

A twin window, put in place later, borrowed its theme from a street scene sketched in Manzanillo, on the fruitful cultural trip taken with Vasconcelos: 

Graceful and elegant as are all of Montenegros figures, the macaw vendor stands in the center, with the showy birds perched on her head.  Others are a charro with a rich sarape, an Indian maiden with a jugThe ground seems a river of gems, and the tropical trees with polychrome trunks overflow with dazzling berries. 

In September 1921


gift of the Italian colony.  Planned for the 600th anniversary of the poets death, the gift of the statue had to be postponed.  Vasconcelos and the Italian minister exchanged belated speeches on November 16th. 

Despite the successive unveilings 


to be open to the public., and the decoration may be considered as practically finished.   

The apsidal wall  


domes, arches and pilasters. 

In a side chapel Xavier painted a decoration of his own conception: In the dome of intense blue are the stylized signs of the Zodiac.  The effect is marvelous, and Xavier Guerrero, the painter, reveals a powerful originality. 

This work, unique of its kind at that time 

100/162 f. 

even before The Dance of the Hours was completed. 

The sudden shift of taste is evidenced when one compares the rave reviews that the first stained-glass lunette rated in 1921 with the savage criticism leveled at the mural in 1922, though both are matched elements of the same decoration.  In October 1922 Prez Mendoza branded The Dance of the Hours as A trite work, pretentious, absurd, a mediocrity strutting in the trappings of a nationalistic wardrobe on opening night. 

In January 1923 Molina Enrquez gave us the key to this change of heart:

Enough to compare what Diego Rivera is finishing in the Auditorium of the Preparatoria School with what Montenegro has to offer in the Church of San Pedro y Pablo.  While the former tackles with powerful impulse a truly great decorationthe latter does no better than copy out of scale a lacquer tray from Uruapan, and, in the least offensive instance, to have others enlarge two of his illustrations, which he tries in vain to palm off on us as stained glass windows. 

The muralists with a social ax  


one of the handsomest patios of the Capital. 

El Universal, July 7, 1923: Today, inauguration of the important works of adaptation that transformed the ancient convent of San Pedro y Pablo into a modern school. 

Excelsior, July 8: To start the brief program, the student orchestra rendered to perfection the waltz Words of Love.  After a brief allocution by Don Vicente Lombardo Toledano, Director of the School, the student choir interpreted Mexican songs.  Boys and girls, attired in characteristic costumes, danced for a finale our classical jarabe tapatio.  

Without waiting for the masons to leave 


Nipponese panoramas. 

Stylistically the mural illustrated Atls home-made-ism––pintura sgnica, signic painting––based, clarified the painter, on two manifestations poles apart––Chinese art and futurism.  It was in his mind, the rigorously logical deduction from universal manifestations, synthetically expressed by representational signs that are the concretions of deep analysis 

Technically the mural was executed with home-cooked pigments, Atl Colors, that the painter defined as a conglomeration derived from the methods of Egypt and Greece.  An awed reporter reported, He invented and put into practice this medium following his ascetic retreat into the volcano Popocatpetl. 

Atl was just putting  


This means that at that date the fresco had not yet been started. 

The next month, September, Mxico Moderno illustrates works by Montenegro.  Relevant to our query is a small fresco, a female head.  The unpainted edges of mortar have been allowed to dry instead of being cut wet, a necessary step if they were to fit neighboring areas, and the fresco could well be a practice piece, with the big wall in view. 

The dates of prepared wall and trial fresco suggest August or September 1923 for the formal start of the painting.  The mural was completed roughly 


By January 10, 1924, the fresco was completed.  At that date, reporter Sstenes Ortega asked of Rivera a question about the fresco that shows somewhat the influence of Haotzu, somewhat the influence of Diego Maria Rivera, and nothing of Roberto Montenegro, unless it be a total lack of ideas on what constitutes mural decoration.

Is that so? answers Rivera.  Well, no, I did not go to see it, in spite of Robertos invitation.  I am afraid to go there after what I saw of Dr. Atls, the first painting in Mexico to impress me adversely.

Riveras opinion of the mural when he did see it proved much more favorable than that of Ortega.  On March 2, 1924 


three tiers of arcades.  Bare today, the patios were planted until the start of the twentieth century with ferns and palms, their tops flush with the flat roof. 

When the pictorial

109/178 f.

celebrated the Feasts of Peace.  Besides fireworks, the capital witnessed a civic fair, industrial and artistic, housed in a temporary pavilion erected for the purpose.  

Says El Ahuizote: The building is a cluster of shacks precariously put together with wicker and canvas, surrounding a something called a brave rotunda, perhaps because of its cheek in staying put in the middle of the Plaza de la Constitucin 

This desecration of the heart of the City of Palaces had people mumbling:

Hay jacalones

Aunque Mxico pierda los tostones. 

To wit:

What a shanty! 

It costs Mexico plenty! 

It cost in fact 12,790.27 pesos and even its architects felt none too proud.  The inaugural speech of Don Castulo Barreda, as secretary of the exhibition commission, attempted to soothe public opinion thus:

This pavilion will disappear as soon as its fleeting fate, its transitory function, renders it feasible.  It will vanish as thoroughly as the fugitive cipher scribbled on a schoolboys slate. 

El Ahuizote again reported:

People go there to look at idols from the museum, stuffed birds from the medical school, and products of foreign industries.  There is a china pot full of water with live fish in it: the pot is French, the fish are not Mexican; only the water drawn from a city pump typifies our National Industry. 

Yet one care 


with scientific ones.  He enrolled for the job Juan Cordero, paradoxically the last potent link of the religious colonial tradition, decorator of the Churches of Jess Maria, Santa Teresa, and San Fernando. 

Because of this


the gift of immortality. 

While Vallejo had decorated the sacristy of the school chapel, a place of devotional quiet, it was imperative that the Cordero mural to impart the light of science to the most remote horizons be painted in a public place.  The chosen spot was the top landing of the main staircase, which makes Cordero the first of the foolhardy phalanx of muralists who defied to their grief the ebullient traffic of youthful students. 

Cordero well knew 

112/184 f. 

irrevocable expulsion. 

Having weathered the shoals, Vasconcelos passed his final examinations and entered law school in the building that became later the nucleus of his ministry. 

In 1911, with Daz ousted and friendly Madero in power, Vasconcelos made a first try at the directorship of the school, though it seemed foolhardy to covet without adequate preparation a post once hallowed by Don Cabino BarredaWhen I learned at last that it was not to be, I felt relieved of the responsibility. 

Owing to this apparent failure, Vasconcelos rose to be a political force under Madero.  His practice as a private lawyer soared as he enjoyed the confidence of the President, and even more that of the Presidents level-headed brother, Gustavo.  A cartoon in El Ahuizote of June 15, 1912, shows a puppetlike Madero manipulated by a Vasconcelos labeled legislative power.  But the successful lawyers heart remained set on the humbler directorship of his beloved school, as subsequent events show. 

In 1913, Madero was shot, Vasconcelos exiled, and Victoriano Huerta installed himself as boss of Mexico.  Under General Huerta 


cloisters of learning.  Michel had sold two of his own pictures to the Mexican government as a sequel to the Belgian show, which may have inclined him to help the Secretary with his pen.  Be it this, or sheer aesthetic insight, his article, dated January 1923 


we shall take them. 

The stupefaction of students, parents, and teachers, of which Michel speaks was matched by that of local art critics.  Prez Mendoza remarks in February 1923:

One should point to the lack of sense that presides over the decoration of the National Preparatoria School, for which no plan was evolved, no total scheme that could impart unity and harmony to the whole; with the most appalling irresponsibility, those walls have been painted as if they were samplers of divergent styles of decoration. 

Salvador Novo 

122/198 f.  

and Old Stones and New Flowers.  On December 5, Rivas Mercado, director of the San Carlos Academy, wrote to Secretary Justo Sierra, suggesting that eight pictures be bought, Given that this exhibition is one of the most successful because of the artistic worth of the pictures shownthis Direction believes that the ministry will agreeas an encouragement to national artists.  The Government bought 


as a full-fledged Parisian cubist in 1913. 

Gone indeed was the impressionist painter, a gregarious fellow who started booted at dawn with a pack––easel, stool, canvas, mawlstick, lunchbox, and paint box––strapped to his robust shoulders.  Through the heat of the day, he mingled heartily with cows, and was proud of his giant palette as loudly decked with chromas as a peasant bride.

Instead, the cubist painter cringed from the open air, the midday sun, and post-card dawns.  He referred to himself as a scientist; he was rather an alchemist picking, weighing, mixing, brewing secret ingredients that the magic properties of the golden section would soon transmute into gold.  It was his life faith that, once encountered, the correct formula could breed great art. 

In the talks among painters 

130/208 f. 

sumptuous architectural settings.  Of the Assumption in Verona Cathedral he noted: 

A very beautiful picture by Titian framed with dark gray polished marble with ornamentationin very low relief a thin gold strip between marble and picture altar frontal in marble gray gray-white and subdued ochre make-believe pilasters are flat. 

In Ravenna he copied 


the good news home from Paris: Diego Rivera is undoubtedly the strongest painter of America.  Together with Matisse, Picasso and Gauguin, he will come to mean a force of the first magnitude in the history of contemporary painting.  Rivera is looking forward


if realized.  The seed of Czanne was made concrete through Picasso and his disciples, Braque and Juan GrisPicasso is today the painter of the most genius

Vasconcelos hesitated


the new artistic orientation of Europeand quoted from the writings of French critics to back his brilliant ideas.  The notable painter closed   

134/215 f. 

dancing on sandaled brown feet. 

November 29th, the party rides horseback to Uxmal, site of truly fabled ruins.  The rocky terrain bounced the carriage where sat Diego and a few others unaccustomed to horses.  The air was criss-crossed by the flight of blue-birds  The party climbed the steep pyramid of La Casa del Adivino, ornate as a gothic cathedral, visited the regal House of the Governor with its triangular Mayan arches, and the low-lying Nunnery whose fame had already reached Violet-le-Duc in mid-nineteenth century. 

The return trip took them through the village of Muna. 

One of our most nostalgic memoriesFelipe Carrillo greeted the people in the Mayan tongueThe youngest Indian girls vied among themselves at dancing a most beautiful variety of tap dance that they call jarana.  Over their white costumes all embroidered, besides gold necklaces and gold rosaries most of them flaunted a red scarf 

138/222 f. 

as any church or palace he had seen in Europe. 

A mural painting is already conditioned by the surrounding architecture before the painter sets to work.  The shape of the bare wall, the proportion of pilasters, cornices and columns, the swing of arches decide––before the first brush stroke is given––what the main linear directions and general style must be.  Instead of the rectangle of a standard canvas, the wall that Rivera tackled, over 270 square feet, was arched to fit a vaulted ceiling, and contained a recess, shaped like a semi dome, made to receive the pipe organ. 

Multiple points of view mark murals as organically distinct from easel canvases.  While the latter fit a single frontal point of view, the former serves a spectator normally in motion along a traffic flow canalized by the function and plan of the building.  In the auditorium, side walls forbid lateral vision, but although the spectator is put in blinkers, he still can move from the foot of the wall to a point way back, where the view of the back wall shrinks to postcard size.  As he does so, the slant of the amphitheater raises his successive horizons from normal to ceiling level. 

Rivera summed up 


believe that it is there. 

The background will be mostly gold.  Beginning with the heaviest pigment, red earth, the hue will rise to pure color.  The [upper] circle will enclose gold stars on a blue field.  In the wide border at its periphery, I will paint the colors of the spectrum. 

And why do you incise 


Creation was officially completed by March 1923.  Its execution encompasses the period when, in the same building, murals by five young painters were begun, and some of them were completed.  In December 1922 


she might in turn covet! 

Tehuantepec affects thus most male travelers.  In a lecture in English, given at the University of Chicago in 1926, Vasconcelos hints decorously at the beauties of his native state, Many a voyager knows the fascination of the Tehuana Indian, whose charm resembles the effect of a heavy odorous wine, and more lyrically in Spanish: 

Women, hips undulating, navel bare, the bodice taut over firm breasts, carry on upright heads great round baskets of goods.  They tread lightly the golden sand with feel clean and naked.  Their naked ankles have the consistency of the royal palm, their lips the opaline freshness of the young coconut. 

Rivera came back  


the hot tropical jungle and its fauna––a theme amplified later along the Ministry staircase––two felines, a crane, a nocturnal bird, rustling through the heavy foliage.  He worked now close to the manner of pulquera painters, and closer still to that of the Revueltas mural whose easy buoyancy was acquiring shape and color at the same time in the entrance hall of the same building.  The stylistic duality 


swept away by the revolution. 

A reporter describes the auditorium crowded by the elite.  Presiding were Don Jos Vasconcelos, Secretary of Public Education, and Don Antonio Case, President of the University, and we noticed the presence of our most distinguished painters and craftsmen.  A bored 


Walter Pach in October 1922: I was not prepared for what I found of admirable originality in the painting that he [Rivera] is doing in the Preparatoria School  Constructive art 

148/234 f. 

The prediction is now justified. 

December 1922, Sstenes Ortega: Diego has finished his decoration al fresco [sic] in the auditorium, a definitive work, and unique in Mexico. 

January 1923, Renato Molina: Rivera tackles with powerful impulse a truly great decoration in which all his vigorous convictions are aggressively stated.

In the same month, Charles Michel captured the cold passion that went into the making of the first Mexican murals, in terms that apply best to Creation:

The enormous frescoes began to materialize.  Groups of gigantic figures became simplified into vast, harmonious parabolae, with their outline etched in cement.  They were simple lines, more like giant diagrams, stripped of accessory inflections that would jar as frills in this austere and rarefied atmosphereLines overlap by means of regulated contacts, the rhythmical balance of their geometric trails eternizes ample gestures.  Lines ascend and descend, huddle or irradiate in a grave and ritualistic dance. 

March 15, 1923, Ortega spoke again:

Deep feeling and total unselfishness inspire a work that is calm and serene, strong and highThe recess has to be seen to feel the dampness of the fecund earth, still tremulous, that sprouts its first fauna and flora, as it becomes the first augural voice mentioned by the prophetic verb of Aeschylus. 

March 22, Molina was heard again:

He [Rivera] cemented a cornerstone in the monument of future American art with his great mural decoration. 

My eulogy 


The fossil elements of the older school joined themMen who ignored the admirable Velasco, and who thought that they followed the great master Rebull by turning out vile religious pot-boilers.  All attacked


moderns among the muralists. 

Whether this widespread invitation to conservative painters was the result of strategy or open-mindedness, the first and more obvious move of the secretary 

152/241 f. 

called Jean Charlot. 

Why Vasconcelos chose as his emissary a twenty-two year-old who was only a student at the open air school of Coyoacn is explained by the previous refusal of older men; also the Secretarys private secretary, James Torres Bodet, had enough confidence in Leal to own and to hang in his home some of his paintings.

It is prudent to check Leals remembrances against a contemporary text.  In La Falange of August 1923, Rivera punctiliously underscores the sequence.  Before his arrival:

the walls of San Pedro y Pablo were beginning to be potted.  After that, the painting of the Auditorium of the Preparatoria School was begun, and after that Alva, Charlot, Cahero, Leal and Revueltas came to paint on the walls of this same school 

To supply the missing dates: San Pedro y Pablo was commissioned June 1920, Riveras Creation reached the wall early in 1922, and the five young men were called in simultaneously about May 1922. 

It is undeniable 

152/243 f. 

the decoration of the Auditorium.  

Later critics embroider the theme, for example, Frances Flynn Paine jocosely wrote in the foreword to Riveras New York show of 1931:

For a time the young painters were strongly influenced by the work in the Auditorium of the Preparatoria School.  The monumental idea took possession of them.  There was an almost comic anxiety to create things that were much alike and the less the distance from which to view the figures, the larger they seemed to make them.  Some of the figures painted by these young followers of Diego in the Preparatoria School were impossible to see from any point because one could not get at a sufficient distance from the wall, owing to the narrowness of the corridors. 

We witness here the illusion bred by uncertain dating, that the works of a recognized master, aggressively visible now and of vast bulk, must have somehow influenced works less publicized and less exposed, and done by very young men.  Checking on dates proves that there was instead a give and take, and that, if Riveras example was a spur, in exchange some of the essential lines along which the renaissance grew were stated first by the maligned Dieguitos. 


the entrance to the same stairway. 

The planning and painting of the five walls stretches in time between May 1922, when they all were commissioned, to mid-1923.  Though scarce, contemporary data are sufficient to follow their progress.  At the end of 1922 


the panel was close to completion.  Together with that of Revueltas, it was inaugurated June 24, 1923. 

In spite of 

157/250 f.  

Cahero painted only this one before his death.  The only contemporaneous description of the work is that of Sstenes Ortega in December 1922:

Cahero has nearly finished the mural panel assigned to him at the entrance of one of the stairways.  Because of a lack of familiarity with decorative fresco (sic), our painters met with certain handicaps.  The figures of Cahero cannot be said to be perfect, and much less their color, which shows some clashing tones and very dark ones.  In spite of the relative lack of harmony, an integrated vision has been realized, already more serious than that of his other works, regardless of the subject matter that inspires him and that he develops with all his will.  The figures of colonial friars draw the most praise, being well realized and possessed of superb dynamic life.

The pioneer panel  


bespoke the born painter.  For such a gift, the moment was scarcely propitious, the trend being to stress, not the pulp and bloom of optical nature, but rather the intricacies of the dry skeleton of the Universe.  Revueltas rendered nature 


Merde pour les bourgeois. 

Revueltas was a true Bohemian, with the local variations imposed by a revolutionary milieu.  Confusing the bourgeois of Marxist disquisitions with that of atelier slang, he had a less stuffy time baiting Philistines than could be had at a Paris sidewalk caf. 

Siqueiros remembers 


a description by Renato Molina Enrquez, published in July 1923:

Its lavish polychrome orchestration is conceived with no other care than to find an equivalent to the primitive equilibrium that Nature offers in her potent harmoniesThe simplest theme needs no explanation or involved  commentaries.  The painter did no more than search for a plastic motif and execute it with the candid ingenuity of an artisan who has no need of intellectual exegesis to be understood by the masses.  Dominating the composition 


the fruits of the earthThe drawing of the figures is robust, and simplified to the point of stylization, a befitting simplicity called for by the wall.  The Guadalupe emerges between clouds of golden cadmium-yellow, toned down by carmine shades.  At the sides, clouds of grayish blue carry the eye to the gray blue and pearl gray at the topThe praying angels contrast carmine draperies against clouds of chrome yellow.  A Prussian-blue sky ties the upper vision with an earth of soiled ochre, with green cactaceae rising at its sides.  Attitudes are masterfully observedthe posture of the woman who carries her child, the market woman with a jicara on her head, and the bronzed Indians half-hidden in their wrappings.  In the costumes 

161/256 f. 

that Blavatsky stuff. 

In The Plumed Serpent, Lawrence mentions a young guide who showed the murals to Kate and heard her discourse on their shortcomings, and how the boy came to her room the next day, hat twisted in his hands with provincial embarrassment, to abjure past aesthetic errors.  This fictitious account proves that, during our short meeting, neither one of us had made much of an impression on the other. 

Only time


to smooth over discrepancies. 



According to Fernando Leal

The direct roots of the modern movement of Mexican painting are found in the student strike at the School of Fine Arts in 1911. 

The heroes of this initial spur of rebellion in our national art were of the generation which preceded mine.  I was still a child at that time, but some chums from primary school, friends of the strikers, invited me to visit the school of Santa Anita.  Before that, leaning on the influence of the same comrades, I had peeked at the classes of the Academy without daring to attempt to draw, or give the slightest hint of my fugitive presence, for this milieu filled me with disillusionment and almost horror.  The half-begun pictures seemed sordid and the students sunk in greasy laissez-faire.  They played at Vie de Bohme, grew long hair, and sang melancholy songs while plucking their guitars in the twilight of the classroom when the teachers were absent.  The atmosphere was that of a tavern with half-dressed models indulging in cheap smokes. 

To visit Santa Anita was by contrast a revelation, since there reigned a buoyant activity.  Director Ramos Martnez was a gentleman who used spats and gloves and discussed art exclusively.  Perhaps he put an exaggerated fire in all he said and underlined his endless disquisitions with elegant gestures and French expressions, but the overflowing juvenile enthusiasm was catching. 

The students were the same ones who had disoriented me in the dark school of San Carlos, but the open-air light transfigured them.  One especially, Jess Ibarra, I admired when he declaimed with oratorical postures against all academies and against the bourgeois octopus for which he prophesied a sudden and lamentable end.  What was being painted there was an impressionism sui generis, which branched into strange groups and subgroups: Divisionism Pointillism, Luminism, Chromatism, Naturalism, Folklorism, Postimpressionism, Neorealism, Paroxism, etc.  I felt such an enthusiasm for these nearly mystical intents of impressionism that I asked to be allowed to paint too.  To my intense surprise I was given an enormous canvas on a stretcher over a meter square and a set of colors, minus black and the blacklisted earth-colors which I learned to appreciate much later.  

This was my first picture.  I marveled at the confidence shown in me, as materials were handed out without my having attended any of the classes of drawing or painting or even being an enrolled student of the school.  My model was a woman dressed with rose-hued silk and bathed in the light and reflected lights of a rustic village garden.  I started painting as if it were a game and soon heard behind me the exclamations that Ramos Martnez never refused to anyone: It is a Czanne!  One should paint like that without parti pris.  What color!  Silvery!  And la pte!  To what texture it builds!  I could understand only a few of these breathless sayings, but I shall always remain grateful to Alfredo Ramos Martnez for having confronted me with the most fantastic problems which a painter may face, without attempting to humble me with the pedantry of an academic teacher. 

Never have I been taught to paint; never have I been taught to draw; and that is the humblest and proudest thing that I can say. 

Alas, the brand-new open air school of Barbizon lasted scarcely more than two months for me.  The usurper Huerta fell, and the group of painters scattered.  The older ones, whose strike had resulted in this short-lived outdoor escapade, enlisted in the revolutionary ranks, either to disappear on battlefields or to deviate their life courses towards politics. 

I went on painting for three or four years in the patio of our house, where I pursued the fugitive hues of color in full light, using friends and my sister for models.  Successive revolutionary factions held the city only to leave it soon in the hands of their foes.  The streets resounded with the perpetual coming and going of irregulars.

At times I joined my friend, Ramn Alva de la Canal, and we lost ourselves in conversations about painting while seated in some Chinese caf.  We always arrived at the same conclusion.  We would not register at the Academy, since that would be a compromise.  It would be better to wait for the opportunity to further an expression based on emotion felt from life, rather than on routine academy rules. 

We did not wait too long for our opportunity.  When Obregn rose to power we knew that the moment had come for us to start a tiny revolution of our own.  In cahoots with another friend, Mateo Bolaos, who was as much of a budding painter as we, we contacted students of the School of Fine Arts who shared our inquietude, and carried on a truly subversive labor in the dim halls of the venerable academy. 

The director of the institution, Mateo Herrera, conscientious copyist of Velzquez, was replaced by Alfredo Ramos Martnez, who meant for us a symbol of renewal and the tacit promise of the foundation of an outdoor school of painting.

The roll of those who brought about this change is as follows: Mateo Bolaos, Ramn Alva de la Canal, Francisco Daz de Len, Enrique A. Ugarte, Emilio Garca Cahero, Gabriel Fernndez (not meaning Gabriel Fernandez Ledesma but the one we referred to as the Bolshevik), and myself.

Ramos Martnez interpreted our aspirations by opening the outdoor painting school of Chimalistac.  We, the core of seven beginners, lived there in contact with new landscapes and new types, bent upon exploring without prejudices, the first time in modern times, the surrounding beauty. 

With blind faith in the fruitfulness of our efforts, we settled to work, and at the years end the school of Chimalistac had its first success, presenting an ensemble quite superior to that of the teachers and students of San Carlos.  Ramos Martnez boldly used the incident to renew the faculty.  He released the older teachers who stood for routine and laissez-faire, and distributed their posts among a group of young painters from Chimalistac, confronting with courage the wave of protests that rose against his decision.

The outdoor school remained active, even with a majority of its members now teachers at the National School of San Carlos.  It moved, however, to a much more adequate place in Coyoacn, with a better allowance.  The small colony of seven artists was swelled with new members: Fermn Revueltas, who had returned from the United States, Ramn Cano come from Vera Cruz, Leopoldo Mndez, and a few more.  The last arrival was Jean Charlot, who came with his mother.  They were looking for a little quiet in the New World to forget the horrors of the war that had just swept like a hurricane over the European continent. 

Don Lino Picaseo, librarian of the National School of Fine Arts, put us in touch and a great friendship began at first sight.  I was happy to take Charlot with me to the school of Coyoacn and to have Ramos Martnez confer on him all the prerogatives of a Mexican student. 

A few weeks before the arrival of Charlot, the potentialities open to Mexican artists had grown enormously, owing to the active spirit of Jos Vasconcelos, then the president of the university.

Jos Vasconcelos was brimming over 

181/292 f.  

at Vera Cruz on January 23, 1921.  My first impressions of the capital are preserved in Mexico of the Poor:

I had staged in my head a sham Mexico, fanned with feathers of blue, green and red, its trees feverish with tropical mimics.  I somehow felt cheated at landing, in spite of the guided tours, the marble bulk of the National Theatre, the powdered maidens dressed in organdy, the gentlemen sunk within stiff collars.  One of the latter, as wealthy as he was senile, stated: No equality is possible here; just decent people and wild men.  I was soon to find the truth of his assertion. 

At six oclock in the morning, automobiles and ladies are still asleep, and the true features of the town emerge, washed of this phony coat of paint that disfigures it in the daylight.  Beautiful beings people the dawn-lit streets, Ladies of Guadalupe innumerable.  They move noiselessly, feet flat to the ground, antique beauty come to life.  The wealthier quarters are as empty and soiled as a  music hall at noon, but everywhere else, among those low-lying houses, cubic and freshly daubed, processions are staged.  At a first glance the crowd is the color of dust.  Flesh and cloth, both worn out with use, melt into this grey which is the very livery of humbleness.  Eye and mind soon learn to focus, and this race, its confidence won, attests its beauty through its fabrics, its straws, its flesh 

These people have the wisdom of the philosophers who walked with naked feet in a stream while abstracting ideals.  They toys have the twist of Aesops fables, their bodies the patina of those antique athletes of whom Lucian states that they are the color of sun-baked bricks.  When the servant-maids troop out of the earliest mass, the repetitious beauty of their naked feet, the ample petticoats, the draped scarves, duplicate the rhythm of the Panatheneas 

Rebozo, zarape, flesh and hair partake of those shades which are the palette of Nature: yellows, reds and greys of earth colors, the blue-greys, the grey-blues, and as a climax those changing hues of the pigeons throat.  I arrived with a stock of good chemical colors bought in France, ready to match monkeys and palms, as an explorer carries gaudy calicoes to do barter.  How could these pigments stand for these, the very colors of water, earth, wood and straw.  Even my up-to-date theories of art need go overboard as I face the features of this land truly secretive and classical, whose perennial mission seems to be the apotheosis of the poor and the scandal of the impertinent. 

Ramos Martnez, director


 what we both had left behind us in Paris.

When Leal relayed Vasconcelos call for muralists, I was already working for Rivera, on Creation. 

181 f./295 f.  Omitted paragraphs placed by date.

May 19.  See Toledano apropos decoration. 

July 15.  Try head on wall.  I tacked in situ a full-scale pencil drawing of a warriors head to check perspective and optical deformations. 

August 10.  Draw Diego for wall.  A sketch from nature used for his portrait in the group at the lower right. 

September 8 and 9.  Draw horses.  For the Conquistadores. 

182/ 296. 

seven workdays to complete (Figs. 28a, 28b.) 

It remained to letter the explanatory caption that ran under the picture.  A quote from the sixteenth-century chronicler Diego Durn, describing the wholesale butchering of Indian aristocrats by Alvarado, it read: Such was the upset and such the clamor raised that mountains echoed it and stones were split with pain and pity. 

There remained the coloring 

183 f./297 f. 

until the wall was thoroughly dry.  After that, the fresco was covered with a tarpaulin to avoid mishaps while school handymen put in a cement dado and refreshed the ceiling moulding in distemper. 

January 31:... 

February 1: Fresco inaugurated.  Many friends, pop and cookies.  Such feasting was due to Siqueiros initiative (Fig. 28c).  A photographer took a flash of the affair, that is also a roll call of Mexican painters. 

Vasconcelos came the next day and gave his verbal approval, finding the work quite strong. 

In Mexico at the time, to attempt fresco on a mural scale was truly an adventure.  That September 1922, Siqueiros returned from Europe, just in time to witness the execution of the painting.  He too felt, for once vicariously, the pioneering fever that pulsed in such a technical exploration.  He writes, with one factual slip––I never went to the Fontainebleau school:

What were the procedures of mural painting?  In Egypt, in Greece, in Renaissance Italy, in ancient American civilizations, the two essential techniques were encaustic and fresco; as a rule, fresco for interiors and encaustic for polychromies on outer architecture.  But what did they consist of?  One knew nothing of it, or at least very little in the modern academies of Europe and America.  While our disorientation was at a peak for the lack of a solution to such an elementary problem, there fell among us as from the sky a young French painter called Jean Charlot who had studied at the Art School of Fontainebleau.  And he was first to enlighten us somewhat on the subject. 


with soft brushes.  Black of mediocre adherence.  Vermilion  


and my personal experience.  

Cement stops to an extent the pores of the mortar, the color is harder to apply and the drying process is speeded up.  However, I believe that cement 


if my mural work was to shoot valid roots in this new soil.  A youth passed among American archeological specimens eased the process somewhat, but my plastic experience remained mostly European.  The men who introduced 

185/300 f. 

We are giving him his spoonful, he grinned.

When in Paris, I wished for an art identified with artisanship.  In Mexico, the wish found its fulfillment in the Rivera workshop with its bracing manual labor, and in hard fresco work of my own.  If this resurrection of past methods escaped the faintly gamy flavor that plagued the nineteenth-century pre-Raphaelite handicraft movement, it was not due to us but to the attitude of the Mexican people.  The first time that Escobar greeted me by the title of Maestro, it flattered my Paris-conditioned ego.  But the fact that he expected to be addressed in return as Maestro taught me to respect his dominion of the masons craft as he did my knowledge of art. 

Critic Sstenes Ortega 


Charlot has decorated one of the walls in the upper corridors in this peculiar style of his that seems so strange to us, and at times extravagant.  With a knowledge 


that remain bland and spongy 

Let us see if, on the ground of pure plasticity, the work is correctly planned and solved, if the whole is as serene and harmonious as befits all mural decorationThis picture produces a most painful sensation of instability.  The heavy darks at top seem to tumble materially over the lower half.  Being the complement of an architecture, great mural decoration should possess a similar basic stability.  To prove that the modernism of the work need not be jeopardized by such a rule, we have here the decoration of Diego Rivera, where the greatest freedom of conception and execution is welded to absolute stability.

To return to our painting, its best feature is the distribution of the lines of strength represented by lances, a solution based somewhat on the cavalry charges of Paolo Uccello and Pietro [sic] della Francesca 

At the lower left, an Indian with the face of a suffering idiot holds a shield that bears an inscription to the effect that: This painting was done in fresco, being the first since colonial times, and was executed by Jean Charlot on a wall plastered by master mason Luis Escobar.

A painter is capable of evolution  

186/303 f. 

the start of the ministry frescoes. 

I noted in my diary on April 28th, Drafted an answer to Molina.  Although it seemed of stop-press urgency in 1923, its partial appearance in print is given here for the first time:

On my arrival in Mexico I was struck by the contrast between the spirituality of the Indian race and the mechanical civilization imported first from Europe, then from the United States.  There has been between those incompatible cultures a clash in which the Indian mode must yield to the other.  Such a racial feud could remain anecdotical but it acquires ampler validity as a symbol of a more general conflict between the search for the Beautiful and Good, and that for Money and PleasureHistory suggests a happening that fits perfectly this preconceived mold, the massacre of the Indian aristocrats by Alvarado while they were performing a floral dance in the Main Temple.  A strictly historical presentation of this incident would obscure its symbolism.  Satiated by a display of archaeological knowledge, the spectator would look no further.  I have purposely used anachronism as a hint that the spectacle witnessed is unreal, that it is rather the hieroglyph that stands for a parallel happening on the intellectual plane

Anachronisms and details––on the side of the Mexicans, ostrich plumes, jewels, flowers, all harmless accessories that further the idea of intellectuality and of estheticismThe sadness and fright expressed by some participants relate rather to the servile state of the Indian race in times to come than to the present action 

Carrying on 


Siqueiros dates his revolutionary beginnings from the art students strike of 1911.  With the plush ripped off the social order, the traditional fabric of the Academy disintegrated at the seams.  The faculty lacked authority.  Under a kindly Izaguirre and a stone-deaf Gedovius, presence in class ceased to be checked, while students and models in corners acted sly versions of the vie de Bohme.  Worst, the work routine was carried intact from the days of Daz, an anachronism now that Madero was president. 

The San Carlos strike parallels in matters esthetic the social revolution.  Then all of fourteen years old 

191/311 f. 

hardly more. 

Siqueiros understates his case: one missile aimed at the Director of the School landed on the wife of the potentate instead, and the young artist had as a result his first, though not his last, taste of jail. 

When Martnez, waving impressionismhis inquietude, his rebellions.  Friends remember how he paid practical homage to picturesqueness, to the fruit vendors rowing to shore in their flat-bottomed chinampas, by devouring boatloads of mangoes and mameyes in a juvenile rash of Indianism. 

Siqueiros favorite recollections 


with other dissident artists like Orozco, Emilio Cahero, and Alva de la Canal, to mention only future muralists.  They named 


those who take to the bush as outlaw fighters.

There, the fugitives from an academy became dedicated to a job far from pure estheticism.  A press was set up in a looted church to print La Vanguardia, an illustrated periodical that upheld the morale of the Carranzista troops and ridiculed their foes. 

Siqueiros soon gave up what Bohemianism 


We shot him outside. 

Siqueiros, whose art is scarcely anecdotal, painted but a few of the many scenes he witnessed, and those stylized––a watercolor of prisoners roped like cattle and herded along a highway to an obvious fate, a drawing of a sleeping peasant with a uniformed drunk holding a pistol to his head.  As is the case with Orozco, the pictures are posterior to the events depicted, while contemporary drawings show very different style and content. 

With Carranza as victor 

196/316 f. 

not free from extravaganceAnother interesting phase of his work is his illustrations.  At times incongruous, his compositions prize plastic motives above ideas. 

A set of watercolors on dance motives: the dancers of Siqueiros 


armed to the teeth Zapatistas; Mxico Moderno, a sombreroed fruit vendor looks at automobiles flowing by a skyscraper in construction; Grace Triumphs over Strength, a snake-thin woman fondles the bleeding head of a decapitated corpse lashed to a tree; Sugar Skulls 


the draftsmen he copied.  Vaguely disturbed, an editor suggested, His Portuguese ancestry may be a key to the technical vigor of his drawings.  The line is firm, the chiaroscuro brusque.  The idea aims at antithesisStill quite young, Alfaro Siqueiroz (sic) will quickly define his personality.

The artist did not stay 


In Paris, Siqueiros swapped goods with Rivera.  The latter demonstrated his machine to produce the fourth dimension (the same that tantalized Andr Salmon), helped Siqueiros make the rounds 


definitive form in 1921. 

Two other Mexican artists, Amado de la Cueva and Carlos Orozco Romero, were in Europe at that time, sent by Basilio Vadillo, governor of their native state of Jalisco.  They both play a role in the mural movement.  Siqueiros struck up in Europe a special companionship with de la Cueva.  Together they toured Spain and Italy.

On the day that Mexican newspapers 


published in BarcelonaA native of Chihuahua, until recently chancellor of the Mexican consulate in Paris, Siqueiros is making fruitful studies in the old world under reputable teachers.  His promotion 

197/319 f. 

usually dated from its appearance. 

The magazine printed a photograph of the President of the National University, Jos Vasconcelos, and commended his superior cerebrality and intelligent labors, which suggests his interest in the venture, and probable financial backing.  It featured also 


The Brancacci Chapel was his personal revelation, as Ravenna was Riveras.  Long after, both Amado and Alfaro loved to extol the beauties of the Brancacci frescoes, backing their assertions with an excellent set of Alinari photographs and beautiful pencil copies of details by de la Cueva. 

His homecoming 


an exhibition ready at years end. 

Mexico, February 27, 1922.  Vasconcelos to Siqueiros. 

Your plans seem very good and I have advised the Department of Pensions accordinglyWe will forward your travel expenses as soon as you wire us that you return. 

April 16, 1922. 




April 17



                                  SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

On April 27 


at 3.30 pesos daily. 

Rivera described the two painters at landing: Siqueiros and de la Cueva arrived, ardently eager, their spirits fired by recent contact with the timeless painting, without epoch or fashion, of the great Italians and with the modern Parisian effort, meaning Picasso et al.

On arrival Siqueiros 

202/324 f. 

both new and strong.  [Text fig. XIV]

The local milieu, rich in human earnestness, quickly tore from Siqueiros the formal trappings of pittura metafisica that still swaddled his genius.  One of his first Mexican works represented a small boy seated at the edge of an iron bed, feet dangling.  Poles apart from Rousseau, Siqueiros yet conveyed in this drawing maximum emotional content with lamb-like means. 

It was customary for returning pensionados to stage substantial shows to justify the expenditure of the States money, as had Rivera in 1910.  Rather than display his talents as an artist, Siqueiros helped organize on his return the Syndicate of Painters and Sculptors, which bespeaks his worth as an organizer.  His only contribution to the Art Action show that marked his public reappearance in November 1922 was this tiny pencil vignette of a lonesome boy.  Reviewing the show, Ortega moans, Siqueiros exhibited only a small drawing when a series of vigorous works of new tendencies was expected. 

While Amado de la Cueva joined the group that helped Rivera at the auditorium, Vasconcelos gave Siqueiros 

Note to above: This episode may be the source of the later apocryphous relayed by Schmeckebier, p. 37, Siqueiros at one time had hung a small drawing of a child on a large wall space as a mural. 


who had had first choice. 

He states now that this choice showed how he already thought of murals as a cluster of illusive bulks and spaces that interplayed with the three-dimensional architecture, and not as a set of panels, larger than easel pictures but similar in essence. 

The sparse light 


stamped in red on his cheek. 

While he was in Europe, Siqueiros had insisted with the longing of an exile on a return to native sources:

We must come closer to the works of the ancient settlers of our vales, Indian painters and sculptors (Mayan, Aztec, Inca, etc., etc.); our climatological identification with them will help us assimilate the constructive vigor of their work; their clear elemental knowledge of nature will be our own starting point.

But, returned to his own milieu, cradle of Indian culture, Siqueiros looked back perversely to Europe:

Our pictorial mural tradition is mostly colonial.  In Mexico, all decorable buildings are built in the occidental architectural style.  It follows that the mural painter should subject himself to the great Italian tradition as his colonial predecessors wisely did.  It is granted that racial particulars are bound to tinge his work unconsciously. 

By striving to create an autochthonous style, the muralist would cut himself from the main European current that molds the very material on which he means to work, marring the results. 

Transitional works have a fascination of their own.  Rivera disgorged, on arrival, stiff Byzantine treasures.  My own first mural was a geometrical gloss concerning Uccello.  Siqueiros ushered in his Mexican period under the aegis of Masaccio. 


Juan Hernndez Araujo.  I recorded his birth in my diary June 1, Begin writing critical estimates.  The nom-de-plume was also 

204/330 f. 

toward Mexican sources.  The calling of pulquera painters had many points of contact with what we ourselves wished to do, and Siqueiros hired one of them to garnish the walls of the first flight of stairs with make-believe twisted columns, false stonework and fake perspectives. 

On the north and south walls of the first landing, Alfaro painted encaustic figures.  Gone were the knowing contrasts of light and shade reminiscent of the Brancacci Chapel.  The first panel, now half erased, was a nude St. Christopher holding a nude Child, colonial at least in its subject matter.  The second was a standing Indian dark, stark, forbidding, red ochre on a red ochre background, closer to pre-Cortesian esthetic.  Siqueiros replaced it at a later date by a standing woman, a fresco. 

When the communal work in the second court of the Ministry was suspended in August, I joined Siqueiros as helper at the time he was working on the St. Christopher, and I painted in encaustic the vault above his wall.  I painted there a head, cut off and levitating upright, the naturalistic soaring perspective putting the emphasis on the neck slice.  Dubious of the realistic illusion, Siqueiros replaced this detail soon after with another version of the same subject, more respectful of the ceiling plane. 

I was only one of many who collaborated with Siqueiros, and some of the work by other hands still remains, now usually identified as by himself.  A curious work 


from Florence to Teotihuacn.  While the deep modelings of the lower ceiling are propped on Masaccio, a native Indian tang imbues what remains of the St. Christopher, regardless of the colonial subject matter.  It blossomed even more freely in the Indian figure, which has now disappeared, in which subject and style synchronized.  But it is only 

206 f./333. 

descent from the Mayan king Nachi-Cocom (Fig. 32). 

In March 1924, Rivera spoke of the frescoes as still in progress.  Between March and July Siqueiros directed house-painter Vasquez to cover the ceiling with a motif suggestive of thorns and corkscrews, while he painted, in the wall space  


as draftsman to the architect Carlos Herrera. 

It would be idle to scan his work for the influence of his two teachers.  Munich-educated, Germn Gedovius thinks like a Mexican and paints like a German, remarked Cornyn approvingly in 1910.  The other, Leandro Izaguirre, was known under Daz for his rendering of popular types (Cornyn reproduces his Tlachiquero) as well as for historical machines.  One could attempt a parallel between his masterwork, Torture of Cuauhtemoc, which depicts the slow broiling of the last Aztec emperor by gold-eager conquistadores, and the flame motif that hisses and crackles through much of Orozcos mural painting, from the hands that transmit and receive Fire, painted in 1925 in the House of Tiles, to the cadaver aflame in the cupola of Guadalajaras Cabaas hospital, frescoed in 1942.  But the stylistic relationship is null. 

In September 1910 


evidences of its dry rot.  Though Creole and rabidly anti-Indian, he no doubt questioned.  


and show him to the libraryWhile my guest sits down and spies around through thick glasses, I place him mentally.  Orozq? [sic]  The cartoonist?  Now I remember certain cartoons in El Ahuizote rich in intention , in energy and cruelty.  I also remember with what enthusiasm my dear friend Jorge Enciso spoke of their author

The artist talks in a muffled voice 


drawings concerned with college girlscaught with keen observation in full action, and climactic intensity of expression.  Young women meet 


To Carranza, victor over Huerta, the artist pledged his first, and, one might venture, his last political allegiance.  His friend Atl, newly made director of the Academy, in a ringing manifesto that berated academics, urged, If, in this moment of universal renovation the Mexican artists, pleading the serenity of their sacerdoce, remain inert, refuse to play a consciously virile part in the struggle, if they let others do their jobthen the rolling avalanche is sure to leave them behind, in a heap of debris.

The argument convinced Orozco.  Two months later, in November 1914, when Zapata, Villa and Gutierrez smoked Carranza, with Atl in his wake, out of Mexico City 


future majesty of the Preparatoria frescoes (Fig. 33).  The related studies, The Sea and The Bridge of San Juan de Ula, were included in the exhibition he gave the following September. 

Throughout his enforced exile  

217/348 f. 

and bourgeois hypocrites.  Inasmuch as it helped the painter to impress on the spectator the repulsiveness of vice, one must admit that a vigorous work of art has been realized. 

Dr. Atl, turned from cleric-eater into an art critic, sided bravely with the painter in his magazine, World-Wide Action: 

J. Orozco.  He is an excessive.  His types of prostitutes are epitomes of prostitution.  He carries the unhealthy characteristics of bordello women to a paroxysm of exaggeration.  Those watercolors are like a collection of social tumors bared by the deft hands of a surgeon.  Orozco is a psychologist who takes pleasure in stressing human morbidity.  Because the technical means at his disposal are sound, the display of his feelings results in emotionalism bordering on repulsionThe general intonation reminds one of an ancient fresco long bleached by the sun [a sensitive observation, years in advance, concerning the technique with which the painter came to be identified]. 

Orozco possesses qualities of cartoonist and draftsman of the first order.  Had fate willed him born in France or Germany, his name would be rated above those of the most famous European satirists.  The series of works shown here is but one facet of his temperament.  To judge him in toto, it is imperative to look at his drawings of school girls, his political and anti-clerical cartoons, and his strong symbolical drawings.  The day that Orozco shows these works together, the public will be better able to appreciate him at his worth.  Should it fail to do so, Orozco will remain nevertheless a powerful and an original artist. 

Later that year 

220/351 f. 

and other appetizing firecrackers of the native kitchen. 

Orozco wrote in 1923: 

In 1916, I gave an exhibition of works that summed up my technical progresses and my esthetic ideas up to then 

my show was thoroughly misunderstood.  A public unaware of the new trends embodied in these works dismissed them as caricatures.  As usual, public curiosity focused on the subject matter and even on the private life of the author, sidestepping technical and esthetic angles. 

One critic wrote 


villains daggernot so lamentable a blunder as that of confusing life itself with representations of lifeI am made to appear 

221/353 f. 

dummies of the Kaiser at street corners. 

Of his stay in California he keeps an honorific diploma:

His work of tinting photographs having proved quite satisfactory, it is understood that he leaves the job of his own free will.  The job remains open for him in case he cares to return. 

Orozco crossed the country 

223/356 f. 

the abstract properties of art. 

This far-sighted estimate took time to sink into the national consciousness.  A month after its publication, Orozco exhibited with the Art in Action group.  Reviewing the show, critic Prez Mendoza still attacked a rough-house naturalism that degrades even itself.  But the article of Walter Pach marked a turning point.  Jos Juan Tablada attempted to bring home its implications in answer to the question of a newspaperman:

Concerning Orozco?  Much should be said.  Imagine in what class this artists work must stand when Walter Pachmanifested that the strong personality of this great painter entranced him.  Pachs opinion gave me intense satisfaction because already fifteen years ago I rooted for the original esthetic of Orozco.  Diego Rivera has said that in his opinion Orozco is the best painter living in the world today.  Orozco is one of the greatest prides of Mexico as regards plastic art 

Interviewed by Ortega in March 1923, Rivera had this to say: Point to the case of Jos Clemente Orozco, a painter of genius that his colleagues ignore or pretend to ignore.  Such a one deserves fame and, when we learn to appreciate him at his worth, will be famous. 

In spite of this 


he works in solitude and silence.  Dr. Atl lists, isolated efforts, little known, revealing strong personalities, such as those ofOrozco.  Never a publicity seeker 


to bid him godspeed.  Slated to begin at one-thirty P.M., the meal did not get underway until two hours later.  At each place was set a lovely name card, an original photograph by Tinoco, hand-tinted in colorAt three-forty P.M., as we proceeded to attack with extraordinary appetite the smoking soup, a thick applause spread 

and mouths remained open and spoons poised in the air while buxom, lovable Fanny Anitua, the popular contralto, seated herself. 

When the time for dessert came 


the reception room of City Hall. 

The gathering broke up at dusk  

The mayor to whom 


equipped to do mural work.  Cubist geometry dovetailed easily with architecture.  The horizontals, diagonals and verticals that scaffold cubist easel pictures seemed more proper even than on canvas once enlarged on the walls of colonial buildings, where they echoed floor levels, staircase slants and the upward thrust of columns.  To adapt the cubist grammar to Mexican patios and arcades meant to work on another scale, but did not require an essential change of orientation. 

Orozco had never been to Europe 


and on folk ways for their subject matter.  Montenegro had used patterns from Michoacn lacquers in potting the nave of San Pedro y Pablo, jarabe dancers and a macaw vendor in its stained-glass lunettes.  Revueltas based his mural on the fat stroke and candent color of pulquera painting.  Leal elaborated on Indian festivals in the staircase of the Preparatoria.  Rivera was now unloading a picturesque folk-cargo on the first panels of the Ministry.  In the second court of the same building, de la Cueva would start in July his frescoes depicting an Indian ritual dance and village fireworks.  And I was painting in the same court a Ribbon Dance that featured a Maypole and masked Indians. 

As was usually the case 


even each family or tribe

To confuse one type of art with the other is a grave mistake; to apply to the one the laws that guide the other is a lamentable equivocation that uproots, disorients and upsets the collectivity, causing a slump in its esthetic progress.

That is why 


the latter warring against the former.

All esthetic philosophy, whatever its tenets, must progress, not retrogress.  In my 1916 show


The human body is to be his only subject matter, stripped of all racial tags, stripped of clothing, stripped even of those nondescript drapes that most classic masters were too prudent to shun.  Time, the present 


mutilated by rioting students in 1924. 

After reading Orozco on classical canons, contemporaneous descriptions of the frescoes come as a surprise.  To the eye of most outsiders, the ground floor was filled with giant rust-red freaks that a reporter deemed Apocalyptic monsters that breed terror.  Professional critics concurred: these figures make knees buckle with fright.

Orozco first painted  


suggested the workings of celestial spheres. 

If Orozcos backers expected him to meet the wall with the ready wit and apparent technical laissez-faire with which he had been used to brush watercolors, they must have felt puzzled.  On his first day on the job, Orozco handled more often the square and the ruler than the brush, patiently incorporating into his work the architectural modules of the surrounding columns and arches.  So symmetrical was his intent that one of the preparatory drawings was only one half of a head, split along a vertical axis.  Orozco made of it a whole head by tracing it on the wall twice, once straight and once reversed.  So precise was his planning that even the width and length of nose and eyes were established through mathematical computations. 

This cautious first day, July 7, 1923, mean much to the artist, even long after he had mastered the mural medium.  When the time came to scrape away this panel, Orozco spared his first day task long enough to have a photograph of it taken, a startling cut-out of minute brushwork against the rough texture of the destroyed area. 

He filled the lower half 

234 f./373 f. 

watercolor on paper. 

Contrasting with the heroic nudes that filled most of the ground floor, Orozcos Lautrec-Goya strain already intruded in the group of school girls and that of the supper party.  But it is in the frescoes of the second floor, stylistically close to his biting newspaper cartoons, that the classicism that was Orozcos first intent was definitely discarded. 

Strident caricatures of the Capitalist and the Church, and of the Rich Woman, and of Mammon, painted life-size and as violent as possible. 

A fat female in tight short dress with hips and breasts as protuberances, walking over the faces of the poor 

THE DUMP: a heap of useless things, liberty cap, regal crown, proletarian flag.    

On the third floor only one subject was begun: The Siege of a Bank.  Orozco attempted in vain to finish it on the same day that he was discharged in July 1924.  Conspicuous was the floor pattern 


and the rich he has sent away empty. 

The faith of Orozco was never meant to be soothing or comforting.  With him, it is rather a means to enlarge the human drama to Gods scale, which is after all one of the cogent reasons that theologians advance for the Passion.  One finds a similar climate in the Catholicism of French writer Lon Bloy, who could impale his victims on hot words as dexterously as any devil a damned on a cherry-red fork.  If Bloy is remembered today, it is because his constructive contribution so immeasurably transcended his destructive jags.  In the same way, if Orozco were only a scoffer and a debunker, his criticism would lead to anarchy, an old-fashioned bomb at that, scattering its small shot harmlessly because of a too expansive radius.  But both Bloy and Orozco are blessed with a private vision of Beauty, jealously kept to themselves, that makes them all the more muscularly dust and scour their universe of every speck that falls short of an ever throbbing ideal. 

To assess contemporaneous reaction  


Riveras appraisal of the classical ground-floor panels was subdued: some of the more talented among the young painters asked themselves if it was not possible to do good painting that, in spite of being good, would not move the average person to protest.  The attempted solution was beneficial in thatIt helped our great Clemente Orozco 


painter to the bureaucrats. 

Vasconcelos remembers the man more vividly than the work.  He states in his memoirs, I rarely went to the main building of the Preparatoria School, and each time that I came near his frescoes, Orozco would make a long face. 

The most important contemporaneous text in English to bear witness to the first version of the Preparatoria murals is the account published by D. H. Lawrence.  This writer may have contacted Orozcos work hurriedly as early as November 19, 1923, while waiting in Mexico City for the train to Vera Cruz on his way to England, but it is more plausible to assume that he first saw the work and took the notes incorporated in his book The Plumed Serpent in 1925.

Since Orozco had been forced to abandon his work in July 1924, the mutilated frescoes had suffered eight months of further hardships at the hands of passersby.  But Lawrence the story-teller overlooked the story-telling scars.

The little party passed on 


to defend the heroine from the villains dagger.  The comparison with theatrical illusion holds good further.  The artists business of building the picture is a job of a practical, physical nature.  Like the actor, the painter weighs in cold blood what technique, what style, will better impart to his audience the heat of passion. 

In Orozco, there is no mental cleavage  


to take up active membership. 

So crass was our infantilism at the moment that, at our second gathering held in the auditorium of the Preparatoria, a motion by Rivera was sustained that our Syndicate (though formed for economic ends) should apply for membership in the Communist International, which is in itself a political body.  We did not know yet that economic groups adhere to international syndicalist organizations through their respective branches, national and local. 

Riveras motion was unanimously approved amidst gleeful manifestations, and the corresponding message redacted on the spot.  I never knew the answer, but feel certain that it must have produced in Moscow tender expressions of pity 

The first thing discussed and elaborated was a political program that took three days to redact.  We complemented it later with an esthetic program and decisions concerning ways of working. 

The resolutions of the Syndicate 

243/389 f.  

international currents of modern art 

The Syndicate recommends that folk art be considered, adding however that this expression is a decadent manifestation, produced by folk nuclei and enslaved races; the product of people who created extraordinary monumental works in other social conditions and are potentially able to create them in the future, given different human circumstances. 

The Syndicate condemns descriptive picturesqueness that pretends to express the essence of a region by its puerile exterior aspects and folk customs. 

The Syndicate strongly condemns conformity to bourgeois class manners, for such a submission, conscious or not, results in a plastic form shorn of echoes, eccentric, mystifying, like that elaborated in modern academies the world over. 

In concrete terms 

244/390 f.  

abetted by Generals Snchez and Estrada. 

Printed on red and dated December 9, 1923, the manifesto was called:

Declaration, Social, Political, and Esthetic,

of the

Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors.

Its text has been translated and reproduced in part by Anita Brenner, and by Schmeckebier after her; I quote only from the unpublished passages:

The military coup of Enrique Estrada and Guadalupe Snchez was of transcendental importance in precipitating and clarifying the social status of our countryWe will fight because we understand full well that the implantation of a bourgeois government in Mexico would bring in its wake a corresponding depression in racial esthetics, which subsist exclusively in our popular classes today but have already begun to purify our intellectuals.  We will fight ruthlessly because we know full well that the triumph of the people will bring in its wake not only a flowering of the social order, but also a universal flowering of art, ethnically, cosmogonically and historically transcendental for the life of our race, a culture worthy of our admirable autochthonous civilizations 

In the name of all the blood shed by the people through years of struggle and in the face of a reactionary uprisingwe appeal to peasants, workers and soldiersto form a united front against the common enemy.  We advise privates who are at the point of spilling the blood of their brothers in race and class to reflect and realize that charlatans intend to make use of their weapons to steal the land and comfort that the Revolution has guaranteed to their brothers. 

                                  For the world proletariat 

                                  Mexico D.F.  December 9, 1923

The executive secretary, David Alfaro Siqueiros 

first secretary, Diego Rivera

second secretary, Xavier Guerrero

Fermn Revueltas, Jos Clemente Orozco, Ramn Alva, Ramn Alva Guadarrama, Germn Cueto, Carlos Mrida. 

Note to above: Ramn Alva Guadarrama helped Orozco at the time on his Preparatoria frescoes.  Germn Cueto, sculptor, has been mentioned in Chapter XI, as host of the mural group for the fiesta given to celebrated the completion of Creation. 


The paper was financed by the Syndicate.  Towards expenses, Guerrero gave 6000 pesos, Rivera 2000, Siqueiros 500.  The red embellishments 



My diary for March 6, 1924, mentions that El Machete, the group paper, is published. 

Its first number 


to see the workers forever.  Day and night they intrigue towards such an end, helped by evil military men and public officials who, traitors to their revolutionary origin, wish to disarm the peasants responsible for the victory of this government, and to smash workers unions.  Sometimes the punch 


those who work it with their hands (Fig. 38). 

The Trinity of the Shameless is another Siqueiros cut.  Patterned after the picture of the Trinity that is a popular Mexican devotion, it groups the Anglo-American imperialist, the Mexican politico, and the Spanish tradesman.  The Saxon holds a dollar bill, I loot the world.  The white-collar Mexican holds a scepter, I am the Iscariot.  The Spaniard jiggles coins, says nothing. 

Besides prints 


to shake hands with the President.  When he was interviewed, Giurati earned his fee by the slogan Fascism is the friend of the workers,––and offered the decrease of strikes in Italy as proof of labors satisfaction. 

Here was an issue  


Fascist Pets 

Erudite, poetical adolescents, correspondents of bourgeois papers and delegates of a few State Ministries, on their return from Vera Cruz where they welcomed their buddies of the ship Italia, gather to swap reminiscences. 

The stage represents the piazzetta del Ajusco, its majestic fountain, and the national stadium for a backdrop. 

The time is 5 P.M.  Dusk is at hand. 

The Cast.

Pet No. 1                                                                                 Pet No. 4 

Pet No. 2                                                                                 Pet No. 5 

Pet No. 3                                                                                 Pet No. 5–5

Fascist Fame

The Voice of an Unseen Worker

The six pets recite in chorus:

                      We went to the sea to see the Boat,

                      Went to the lovely shore with hope.

                      Oh! Vessel crammed with beauties to boot,

                      Oh! Display of fascisms vast scope! 


                      Ship that rides oer the deep and proclaims

                      That ugliness to beauty must bow. 

                      Of fascism the grandiose aims

                      Breed on art that caters to the know-how!

The recitation over, No. 1, greeting No. 2 with effusive signs of fascist brotherhood, remarks:

                      [MMR 250, note 10, stanza 1]

No. 2 to No. 3:

                      [MMR 250, note 10, stanza 2] 

No. 3 to No. 4: 

                      Carrara marble, too, too, esthetic 

                      On our hearts beats its tattoos!

                      Kills our souls with its subtle prick,

                      As parsley poisons cockatoos! 

No. 4 to No. 5:

                      [MMR 250, note 10, stanza 3 and 4]

No. 5 to No. 5–5:

                      Forever they paint their proletariat,

                      Filhy, pass, a-tatter 

                      Surfeit us with their one aria,

                      A grotesque anti-bourgeois patter

No. 5–5, wrapped up in remembrances of the sweet vessel, dreamily answers:

                      Even though sharks give me the creeps,

                      So eager was I to see the sight 

                      And sweet mementoes to reap,  

                      That I doffed my shorts outright. 

As No. 5–5 stops talking, a wave of fascist enthusiasm moves them all.  They hug, kiss, and sing a few lines of the fascist anthem.  As order returns, No. 3 says:

                      I propose, dearies, that No. 1 and No. 4,

                      The one a good poet, the other an opportunist, 

                      Fecundating their brains as never before,

                      Hatch a hymn on the mode fascist! 

Those alluded to retire to the far end of the Plaza.  No sooner have they reached it than INSPIRATION swoops from the skies draped in blatant yellow.  The exalted mimicry of the poets is a guarantee that the Muse possesses them.  Rejoining after a while their companions, they sing and tan the lyre. 

                      Let us forever exalt 

                      Culture, intelligence,

                      and call a halt 

                      To shirtless gents. 


                      We must arise 

                      With dagger and blackjack 

                      To pulverize 

                      That ill-fed pack 


                      To cleanse of dirt 

                      Our fatherland,

                      Well club and hurt 

                      The cursed Indian. 


                      May such gallant stuff 

                      Live forever 

                      We feel mad enough

                      To run a fever! 

They all sigh, keeping the silence proper to great emotions, until a blast of Fascist Fames trumpet startles themSays Fame: 

                      Distinguished, colossal, divine poets,

                      Mussolini the Great proclaims you esthetes. 

                      He commands that your brows be shaded 

                      with this crown of laurels never faded. 


                      Your lavish expense of verses and money,

                      Your anointing of his lackeys with honey,

                      Your tireless bootlicking 

                      Proved to Mussolinis liking 


                      I swear, my sweet suckling sons,

                      To proclaim your names in person 

                      Over the whole orb, over mounts and vale!

                      May Death strike me if I fail! 

Fame stops of a sudden, scans the horizon with dismay.  She puts the trumpet to her ear, the better to detect distant rumblings; her face blanches.  Handling her trumpet as a telescope she scans the faraway, and with shaking nerves, mumbles:

                      The fatherland is imperiled.  Alas! 

                      I see red flags, the people rise en masse! 

                      Poor Benito drunkenly drools 

                      And totters on his Imperial stool! 

Fame exits hurriedly, flying backwards, rowing the air with her trumpet for an oar.  Two by two, the fascist poets faint. 


the borrowed name of my grandfather. 

Another day de Negri phoned me, The military police are after you; your health is in the balance.  I hid eight days in a strange room, my meals brought in, whiling the time away by drawing illustrations for a childs A.B.C.  Then another phone call, Safe again. 

The executive committee 


were all removed from the Library.  

Weeks later, I began to sketch a portrait of Don Quijote, according to instructions, which were as follows: The painting should be in oils, the time of execution limited to sixty days, and the work should be supervised by Licenciado Torres Bodet, who was the head of the Literature Department.  For my good luck, the painting never left the sketch stage; it lacked the approval of Sr. Bodet who found that the Quijote was too realistic, and ought to be given more nobility and dignity.  This was maybe right, but the truth is that I could not whip up much enthusiasm for the project, and abandoned the idea without a word of protest. 

A few days later, together with Mrida––who had finished the decoration of the childrens library,––Charlot and Xavier Guerrero, I found myself assigned to the frescoes of the second floor of the second patio, a set of shields of the different States of the Republic.  Of these, I painted six. 

As I finished the work, Orozco, who was lacking an assistant, asked me to take the job, and I worked with him nearly six months on the walls of the Preparatoria School. 

The second court 


Crafts in the Ministry of Education. 

Thus the contract drawn by Rivera and Vasconcelos for the decoration of the first court contained no provisions concerning the second court, and as we three knew of no other contract, it appears that there was only a loose kind of verbal agreement entered into by Rivera and Vasconcelos at the latters bidding, for Rivera disclaims the initiative when he says: the Citizen Secretary order the works of this inner patio 

No specific time 

272/432 f. 

Of the three painters ready to do team work, Xavier Guerrero was the one most naturally attuned to it (Fig. 43).  In the 1910s, Paris cubists talked of sign and house painters as being truer masters than many an academician, for they alone kept alive wise traditions long forgotten by fine arts schools; Picasso and Braque experimented with the recipes of the trade, and learned how to handle its specialized tools.  In Mexico, however, Xavier Guerrero tapped the same rich vein by simple birthright, as the son of a skilled master house painter who rated crews of his own. 

Xavier was born in San Pedro de las Colonias, whose native name is Cachuila.  His Indian ancestry made him by blood an Aztec, the one undiluted Indian of the original group of Mexican muralists.  Xavier learned to toddle his winding way between paint pots and ladders; the fat or flat brushes of the trade were his toys.  The future muralist watched his father at his job of painting walls, and learned of a plastic alphabet before he was introduced to his A.B.C.s.  Soon he tried his chubby brown hand at it, challenging with juvenile exercises in make-believe woods and trompe lil marbles the paternal chef duvres.  The training of hand and eye was rounded out by practical experience as an architectural draftsman.  When fourteen years old, Xavier branched south on his own, from Chihuahua to Jalisco. 

1920 having come, the Revolutionary party was top-dog.  Vasconcelos was in power and murals were in the air, but not yet on the walls.  Only Guerrero could have been described as an experienced muralist.  At this juncture, Montenegro at first, and after him Rivera  


 be reserved for himself. 

Our work as assistants to Rivera in his first court frescoes was heavy; it started early in the day with instructions to the mason on the portion to be laid, and ended late in the evening by cutting the edges of the days design before it had had time to harden.  Rivera described our other chores in an interview: Alas, because the artists of today are trained as individuals instead of in workshops, the collaboration of a painter with another concerns only the more impersonal parts of the work: preparation of the material, preparation of the wall, its division into areas, tracings, and at most plain backgrounds and a few accessories. 

In May, I was thus ingloriously engaged in painting the brickwork in the architectural portion of the Sugar Cane Refinery, when on the 18th I noted in my diary that Rivera freed me to start painting my own panels at last.  Though far from verbose, the diary, besides the chronological sequence of the work, records the subsequent incidents that plagued our work. 

My diary records 


those exponents of an Abnormal School.

A kinder estimate is that of Cossio:

The disciples of Rivera decorate the corridors and staircase of the Preparatoria School and also part of the Ministry of Education.  Certainly none among them has reached the perfection of the master, but, as a group, and with Rivera at their head, they work all day long on a work that, whatever its partial shortcomings, is grandiose in its conception, grandiose in its realization; the job they do is the most important pictorial work done in America. 

Riveras estimate 


He does not add that we were shot in the back. 

Out of our armys casualties under fire, there remained to extract gold fillings.  On December 11th the Controller of Accounts wrote to Rivera that the cost per square meter of his work in the first court of the Ministry had risen in execution from the original estimate of 8 pesos to 75 pesos 32 centavos, and that already 18,001 pesos had been paid in excess of the total estimate for the completed work.  Rivera parried the blow with a counter-claim of 1,892 pesos still due him by the treasury. 

Here is the daily payroll listed by the Controller:

Rivera                                     20.00

Assistant                                 10.00 [this was Xavier Guerrero] 

3 decorators                              12.00 [originally Guerrero, de la Cueva and myself]

1 (master mason)                         4.50

1 (journeyman mason)                  3.50

1 laborer                                    1.75

2 laborers                                   3.00 

1 assistant                                  3.50 

1 assistant                                  2.00

a total of $60.25 put in round numbers by the Controller at $60.00. 

Here are the salaries per day listed by Rivera in his answer:

half-days wage of master mason                          2.25

                          journeyman mason                        1.75

one laborer                                                       1.75

assistant                                                          4.00

a total of $9.75. 

How is this remarkable decrease in the daily payroll arrived at?

Riveras own salary is not included in his own estimate: As to the wages of $20.00 daily which the undersigned receives, it has nothing to do with the work of decorating the first court, since he earns it by his regular employment as Head of Plastic Crafts, in which capacity he directed the works of the second patio of the Ministry 

Guerreros salary is also discounted: As to the wages of Seor Xavier Guerrero, he has worked during this time:

                      1. on the decoration of the second patio 

                      2. on the vestibule of the elevator, and

                      3. on the gilding of the background of the reliefs on the same interior patio.

The vestibule of the elevator was at most a small job.  The gilding referred to could hardly be regarded as contemporary, as it had happened at the time of the inauguration of the building, in July 1922.  The  one apparently cogent reason is the decoration of the second patio. 

Half-salaries are listed for the two masons, a laborer and an assistant because it is necessary to point out that this personnel worked not only in the painting of the first patio, but also in that of the second, in the corridors [that would be our coats-of-arms job] and elevator vestibule. 

The salaries of 3 decorators, 2 laborers and 1 assistant remain unaccounted for, implying that those men are working exclusively on the second patio with which contractor Rivera has nothing to do 

Thus Rivera managed to shrink his daily payroll to $9.75 for the work done in the first patio, by loading the remaining $50.25 on the job supposedly going on in the second patio, even though at that date all work had been stopped. 

The four panels that still remain today in the second court, two by de la Cueva and two of mine, are easily by-passed, embedded as they are in the even flow of Riveras great decoration.  But from the time of their completion in mid-1923 until mid-1925, they remained as isolated signposts in the naked court and they leavened much that was to come.  When Rivera started the second court in 1925, he had to meet the terms that we had stated two years before.  Justino Fernndez, the critic, spoke incautiously when he belittled our panels without checking on his dates.  By then, he says, totally absorbed by the influence of Rivera, he [Charlot] paints in 1923 two frescoes in the Ministry of Education that harmonize with the general decoration conceived by Rivera for those courts. 

Bertram Wolfe, who knew the correct sequence, used more finesse: Nearby and opposing panels that might be taken in by the eye of the observer simultaneously with those of Charlot and de la Cueva, he [Rivera] skillfully adapted and shaded off towards their styles and colorings so that they do not merge badly into the whole. 

As originally planned, the second court of the Ministry was to be the logical culmination of the mural trend.  In contrast with the Parisian set-up, the ideology of the Mexican movement objected to the accent on the individual.  As buyer, Mexico substituted a collective government for a Maecenas or an art dealer.  As consumer, it replaced the private collector by the people.  In the execution of the work, it used teamwork, identical with that of ancient workshops, in lieu of a strict autography.  The technique shifted from oil paint, cuisin in the secrecy of the studio, to that of true fresco, in which both mason and painter have their say.  The logical result to such a shift from the individual to the collective would be a melting of personalities who might build in this new anonymity the modern analogue to cathedrals.

The differences of ideologies, that wrecked the project, were forced into definition as our murals progressed.  Rivera thought of collective work on the seventeenth century lines established by such a dictator of taste as Le Brun, who planned vast decors in praise of Louis XIVth, to be executed by docile mercenaries.  We felt rather that the inner conformity existing among us was binding enough to impose a plastic unity, without need of an overt interference.  With the forced stoppage of the work our basic ideal had failed in practice. 


or reigning condottieri.  Such an arrangement makes for public works only as good as the taste of the man in power, and, in Mexico, as in Renaissance Italy 


on the spirit of a whole nation.  

So much is said in this country concerning political impositions that some attention should be paid to intellectual and esthetic impositions, even more despotic and abstruse than the pressure applied by the electoral machinery in the spirited fight for power.

A score of years ago the positivist cliquehad imposed its criterion on the nation.  In those days the positivist philosophy was State philosophy in the same way that today there is a State painting, sprung from the brushes of Diego Rivera.  If one sought a job as teacher of logic under the Dictatorship, one had to think like Auguste Comte; today, if one would be in tune with the intellectual concert of the Administration, one has to see Nature though the incandescent eye of Sr. Rivera. 

The imposition is not restricted 

282 f./454. 

Gathering in force at the office of Alfonso Islas, they pelted it with rotten eggs, tore down its signs, which were later burned amidst hilarious demonstrations.

One of the students vigorously reproached Dr. Islas as a fraud for assuming the title of Dentist Graduate of the Faculty of Mexico, and demanded that the posters advertising this lie be taken down.  Sr. Islas hedged along, arguing that his signs had cost him good money.  The student countered with a resounding slap. 

The started direct action.  A rain of rotten eggs fell on the faade.  Passersby shouted with delight at the free show.  The bombardment of rotten eggs left the building a pitiable sight, with an unbearable stink floating over the spot.  The glass of the three showcases was smashed.  Petty thieves quick to take advantagemade away with the dental exhibits, teeth, crowns, bridges.  The odontological students 


second, and final resignation.  Shorn of political pull, the painters would soon be at the mercy of the students.  Were not the paintings 


Riveras version of the human form.  In a deafening turmoil and possessed of indescribable fury, the initiated the work of destruction by scraping the walls and throwing stones and mud at them. 


soiled and mutilated. 

In this case, however, direct action stopped by unforeseen circumstances, fell short of its aims; but the students have pledged that their work will not remain incomplete, nor will the work of Rivera remain complete. 

The preceding threat, as some of the boys who joined in this practical demonstration commented, means that they will return and attempt the total destruction of the mural paintings of Rivera.  They plan to invite 


But then, we asked, a direct action against your own work was not even attempted?  What may well have happened 

288/459 f. 

the bourgeois still rampant.  Far from feeling offended, we rejoice as those men intellectually pass rebel at our revolutionary labors 

We publicly warn pseudo students and reactionary teachers alike thatthe vileness of their actions throws a very serious blot on this whole generation of students, and that we intend to make retaliation  


for example, these of the Preparatoria School.  They were given all facilities and soon were wielding the brush.  For some unfathomable reason, they began to tell stories in pictures.  They began decently enough 


The Secretary of Public Education and Fine Arts will now apportion to those misunderstood apostles of gruesome allegories some other building, less unfit for the display of their mood.  We will take into account 


his intervention was a necessityThey also apprised this functionary of the intention of the students of the Fine Arts School to exercise direct action against the restless students of the Preparatoria. 

Dr. Gastelum indicated 


already a de facto situation.  Even this failed to soothe the foes of the muralists. 

More Painters Dismissed.

In scholastic circles it is rumored with insistence that the Ministry of Education will receive a petition asking that the futuristic painters be allowed to teach but not to paint.  It is obvious that what money the government spends on such works is money thrown away.  It is taken for granted that future Secretaries of Education will order such defacements erased from the buildings under their control. 


in behalf of a more generous cause.  We will give the community the benefit of the doubt and grant that those who succeeded in this wholesale lynching of art were students refractory in studies.  Though they do not know it, they acted according to a sort of unholy logic, as did other moronic minds which remain branded forever in the pages of History 

When a pioneer creates a novel standard of beauty, it clashes with those already labeled and embalmed.  If the work transcends an average instinct, it becomes an insult in spirit and letter, for, to contact it, one must look upwards.  It is also a creation, and eunuchs never look with favor on virility. 

One cannot explain the true painter in everyday terms.  He sometimes works for a salary, but more often without.  He is alien to a world where activities are spurred by the profit motive.  Nor is painting included in the list of things necessary, as compiled by those sages who know that man lives only on bread.  Good art exists rather on a spiritual plane and must experience disdain as do those other anti-social virtues of humility and poverty, which are for their devotees a sentence to suffer and often to die 

293/466 f.  

for government publications. 

Though this feud between students and artists makes a clear-cut picture in retrospect, the destruction of the Preparatoria frescoes was only a fleeting episode in the complex extra-curricular activities of the students.  One month after the riot, attention shifted to another subject.  Having already upheld the prestige of D. D. S. dental degrees and pointed the way to a return to true beauty in imitation of nature, the students decided to save Mexican womanhood from Yankee fashions.  Their target was now the local flapper, with imported bob and knee-short skirt.  A few girls were abducted, hazed and ducked in cold water.  This time public opinion was solidly against the pranksters.  The headlines of Excelsior read: Students Commit Censurable Assaults Against Flappers, Dunk and Shave them  In retaliation the cadets of the Military School declared war on the unchivalrous adolescents, but this is scarcely our story.  

With the painters dismissed 


the puritanical janitor plied his trade.  

Siqueiros never came back to repair and finish his work.  Orozco resumed work in 1926, but rather than touch again the mutilated frescoes he delegated his mason and assistants the task not only of restoring the missing patches, but of repainting them as well. 


Anything else would be a paradox.  Still worthy of attention is the fact that Sr. Gastelum, Subsecretary of Education in charge of the portfolio, refrained from severely punishing Sr. Rivera. 

What an idea 


They can do it single-handedly. 

When Vasconcelos left the Ministry he ran for the governorship of his native state of Oaxaca against a strongly entrenched political machine.  Newspaper headlines tell of this new adventure: 

July 9, Great reception to Vasconcelos in Oaxaca.

August 5, Smashing Triumph of Vasconcelos.

August 10, Will the election of Vasconcelos be circumvented, thus voiding the vote of the entire population of Oaxaca both civil and military? 

August 17, Deeds of violence take place in Oaxaca.  Pro-Vasconcelos deputies are barred from the official legislative building by strong-arm methods. 

August 19, Governor Ibarra has brought from the mountains great bodies of troops that occupy the government palace even to the roofs. 

August 21, Two Oaxaca legislatures.  The archivist of the pro-Vasconcelos committee dies, lassoed and stabbed by his opponent. 

August 28, Pro-Vasconcelos deputies kidnapped. 

The last contribution to bear on the incident is labeled paid advertisement and spread in large type by the politically vested interests: Seor Vasconcelos will benefit the people of Oaxaca by conceding the triumph obtained by General Onofre Jimnez. 

Thus closed the Vasconcelos era which is the setting for this book. 

We have seen  


capers of the academicians. 

But not forever–– 

In the streets one hears the first rumbles that disturb bureaucrats, panic dowagers and stampede the rich towards Europe. 

Of those truly ours, those who remain AFTER will return to their scaffolds. 

This is a gloss on what he had once said to Charles Michel in the first flush of mural activities: Work, food, drink––and colors, those are all our needs.  They have been supplied up to nowand if they are denied us––we shall take them.  It shows how, as he believed himself abandoned by the Mexican official world, he returned in spirit to the Paris bistro, where comrades leisurely rehearsed the coming anarchistic Grand Soir over glasses of black wine. 

The destruction of the frescoes  

296 f./474. 

of known intellectual worthSuch manners match to perfection the small talent of those who, unable to convince by reasons, take refuge in insults.  

The Federation of Studentsin short Civilization

If the novel style of painting that adorns the Preparatoria disgusts both university students and teachers, if they lack understanding of the lofty inspiration from which such works are born, it is still nobodys business but theirs to say so and to ask that the fantastic caricatures that have invaded its walls be replaced in their House of Study by artistic pictures worthy of its monumental architecture 

The Federation of Students of Mexico begs 

297/474 f. 

does not impugn their just motives. 

El Universal stated on July 12th:

The Painters Answer the Studentsin a pamphlet received in our office

We protest against the bestial, anti-cultural, anti-scientific action, poles apart from civilization and progress, that consists in destroying a work in progress for reasons either obsolete or venal; such a course would put all efforts, all innovations of human knowledge in peril of constant destruction, as a sop to the amateurish opinions of critical passersby. 

The more enlightened students of the National University must brand and chastise with their fists the retrograde teachers and students who oppose the forward march of esthetic transformations, a social revolutionary manifestation in behalf of the people and one taking its roots in their conscience! 

As if in answer to this wish El Democrata printed a manifesto in favor of the painters signed by the communist students of the Preparatoria School, one hundred and fifty-four strong by their own count.  Its closing lines read:

The so-called Federation of Students of Mexicois a nest of clowns and mountebanks.  Their answer to the manly manifesto of the artists who decorate our school is full of incoherent and ambiguous mouthings 

We earnestly urge the modern painters to keep decorating our school with works fit to shame students influenced by bourgeois doctrines 

                                              The Executive Committee: 

                                              Heliodoro Gurrion

                                              Carlos Zapata 

                                              Cuauhtemoc Boyseauneau 

One may question the spontaneity of this outburst.  At the time the painters were strong in the councils of the Communist party and well placed to dictate local policies.  One detects the two-fisted political style of Siqueiros, while the names of the signatories seem chosen by an artist, mostly for euphonic effect. 

Of the Syndicate members  


as the refrain went. 

On a higher level, besides grave-diggers and weeping rebozoed women, a few portraits of mourners included one of master mason Luis Escobar, he whom I had portrayed two years before in my first fresco. 

While heavens fire  

299/479 f. 

New Profanations of Mural Paintings. 

Once more the reactionaries, who, within the very body of the present semi-revolutionary public administration, fight against all that means betterment for the workers, ruthlessly demonstrated their disdain for such plastic manifestations as exalt the virtues of the People, who produce all and create all, and such as roundly flay the vices of a bourgeoisie that produces nothing, yet devours everything; as when they partially damaged the pictorial work that Diego Rivera is executing in the Ministry of Education.

The under-handed cowards who put weapons in the hands of men either irresponsible or vile, who profaned the social painting of Diego Rivera, as they had destroyed but a few months ago those of Alfaro Siqueiros and Jos Clement Orozco, mutilated imponderably at the same blow all pedagogical reforms that favor the productive class. 

The workers, peasants and revolutionary youth of all the Republic know full well that whatever small progress has been accomplished by Vasconcelos in the Ministry of Public Education must not be lost.  If we energetically protest the profanation of a revolutionary work, it is also our ineludible duty to the Mexican people to point at the source from which flows all such villainies, and to make note of the fact that Seores Vasconcelos and Gastelum (the former is the material and moral instigator of the social pictorial work now developing in a communal way at the hands of a group of painters, members of the Syndicate of Painters and Sculptors, a work without precedent in the social evolution of Mexico) did not know how to meet their responsibilities, how to protect an esthetic work owned by the proletarian masses of Mexico, and paid for with the peoples money.  Their timorousness when confronted by an action that shames the whole Mexican race allowed the swank students, bred of exploiters, to try to lop off this collective effort that buttresses the workers of Mexico in their social revolution. 

                                  For the Revolutionary Syndicate of Painters and Sculptors

                                                          The General Secretary 

The postscript read: 


that greatly surprised Don Segundo. 

By 1912, a decade before the best-known Mexican muralists painted walls, Guerrero was already a practiced wall painter.  He did, among other murals, a ceiling in the chapel of the hospital of San Camilo, its theme a Resurrection.  That was in mid-year, and thee was a string of earthquakes that shook the high scaffold where he worked, while the frightened nuns huddled and prayed underneath. 

Xavier also tells 


I would get it.

Orozco Romeros first exhibited works were caricatures, hence the nickname Karikato that clung to him long after he had turned to serious painting.  In 1921, Basilio 


the Madrid Autumn salon of 1921.  A puzzled critic remarked, The two Mexican pensionistas give a valiant note of modernismThese young painters are the only ones to rebel against espaolismo.  They seem to enjoy but little their sojourn in Spain, and to appreciate but little its pictorial jewels. 

After a side trip to France 


in an unusually friendly tone: 

Carlos Orozco finished a few days ago a fresco in he State Museum.  It is totally 


Later on, when the State Museum corrected its easy rambling ways and got an esthetic lift from museographers, the work of 


There is also a great figure of Saint Christopher, modeled after the sculpture that watches at the corner of Santa Monica Street, and painted in the tradition.. 


saw the work through to completion. 

Naturally, Orozco Romero closely followed the progress of the team, and we owe to him the snapshots that record the successive stages of the work.  But only a view of the original can communicate the vastness of scale, and the insistent, nearly hallucinatory monochrome of the color scheme, an English red on a red ochre background. 

Anita Brenner visited 


radius in height.  Given the closeness of the facing walls, any desire to fill them with an agglomeration of motives had to give way to social symbolism 

At first sight one confuses 


syndicalists, weavers, mechanics.  The figures of Alfaro are concise and of a very close-knit plasticity.  Those of Amado have more careful, more ennobled features 

Worthy of praise  


The young painter Amado de la Cueva did yesterday, the victim of a deplorable accidentWhile riding 


its motor still runningEngineer Nicolas Pugo carried the unlucky artist to his home to receive medical attention.  Alas 


Editors Note: The following paragraph was not in the file J.C. Mex. Mural Ren. –– Unpublished Material.

From Chapter 20: Ministry of Education: First Court

While at work on his scaffold, Rivera cocked his ear to the opinions of petty employees and master masons, scraped, if need be, and did over a fragment until satisfied that the story was clearly expressed.  The naked, flogged and roped man seen from the back that soldiers untie so tenderly in the Liberation of a Peon was repainted three times over, the result of a chance remark overheard, Why kill her after they had had their wish with her.