John Charlot


A crucial but controverted question of the Mexican Mural Renaissance is whether or to what extent the subjects and styles of the murals were chosen by the governmental patron, José Vasconcelos, or by the artists themselves.  Often critics––especially those uncomfortable with the muralists’ socially conscious subject matter––have simply assumed that the government ordered the artists to support their programs.  The argument offered for this is the coincidence some of the early muralists’ images with the nationalist, revolutionary ideology of the government and especially with the programs of Vasconcelos himself, then Secretary of Public Education.[1]  The Mexican murals could thus be viewed as visual propaganda that lacked a basic quality of authentic art: the freedom of artistic creativity.  The question is central, therefore, to an aesthetic evaluation of the Mexican mural movement.  It can be answered only by a close study of the historical situation, the relevant documents, and the chronology of the early murals. 

The Mexican Revolution was sanguinary and destructive and left an enormous task of physical and social reconstruction.  Fortunately, General and now President Álvaro Obregón provided the necessary leadership.  It was “truly a period of reconstruction.”[2]  The Mexican muralists began to paint “as a new social order began to take shape out of the turmoil and anarchy of the military stage of the revolution.”[3]

Perhaps Obregón’s most successful appointment was that of Vasconcelos in 1921 to the post of Secretary of Public Education.  Like his great predecessor Justo Sierra, Vasconcelos used his position to change society as a whole, initiating a national educational and cultural movement that remains historically unique in its breadth and effectiveness.[4]  None of his successors would show the same energy, cultural emphasis, or greatness of mind.  Inspired by a Pythagorean philosophy that accorded an educational and civilizing power to the arts, Vasconcelos sought to enlist visual artists in his campaign.[5] 

The small number of artists who accepted Vasconcelos’ invitation and the challenge of muralism thus felt themselves part of a larger movement in which they had a distinctive contribution to make and a duty to make it: “an inner urge synchronized with the social unrest.”[6]  As a result, “The Mexican artist worked in the midst of a social turmoil quite unlike the secluded quiet of Parisian studios.”[7]  They felt the same exhilaration and inspiration experienced by Russian artists in the first few years after their own Revolution, an intensely creative period tragically cut short.  Even Vasconcelos, later a bitter enemy of Obregón, remembered the positive atmosphere at the beginning of the regime, when many felt they could really make history and a new society.[8]  The Mexican muralists’ consciousness of their historical and social situation was a decisive factor in their thematic and stylistic choices. 

Historian Claude Fell, among others, has already argued that the artists largely determined their subjects and styles, not the patron.[9]  Vasconcelos and the muralists shared ideas, such as that art should be public, address a popular audience, and have social as well as aesthetic goals.  Vasconcelos’ letters are an early and eloquent formulation of the program of creating a national art on a Mexican foundation.  But Vasconcelos and the muralists differed in their taste and largely in the themes they thought best to achieve those goals.  Despite several of his statements, Vasconcelos tended personally to precious and exquisite styles derived from foreign models, anodyne subjects, universal symbolism, a romanticized past, fantasy, and contemplative moods.  His favorite painter was Roberto Montenegro along with the artists in stylistic accord with him––like Jorge Enciso and Adolfo Best Maugard––who were called the Nationalists.[10]  The muralists, on the contrary, painted actual social issues and relevant historical subjects with an indigenized style and bold monumentality as incitements to action.  Vasconcelos’ weak taste in the visual arts reflected his stronger appreciation of literature, music, dance, and spectacle; about the latter arts, he writes at greater length and with more enthusiasm in his memoirs.[11]

All the more praiseworthy, therefore, is his granting of artistic freedom to the muralists.  On this point, key artists are categorical.  Leal wrote:

[Vasconcelos] left me free as to theme and technique.[12] 

El movimiento moderno de la pintura mexicana fue posible, en sus comienzos, porque José Vasconcelos nos dio amplia libertad de expresión a todos los pintores…[13] 

‘The modern movement of Mexican painting was possible, in its beginnings, because José Vasconcelos gave ample liberty of expression to all of us painters…’

Leal quotes the terms of Vasconcelos’ invitation:

“Quiero que usted también se encargue de decorar la Preparatoria.  Pinte usted lo que guste y con los procedimientos que mejor le parezcan.  Lo dejo en entera libertad de criterio, pues no deseo que, el día de maĖana, ustedes los pintores se disculpen de sus propios errores, alegando que se les impuso tal o cual asunto, tal o cual procedimiento.”[14] 

‘I want you also to take charge of decorating the Preparatoria.  Paint what you want with the methods that seem best to you.  I leave it to you in complete liberty of judgment, because I don’t want you artists later to excuse your own errors by alleging that this or that subject or this or that method was imposed on you.’ 

If Vasconcelos had tried to impose his will on the artists, they would have been the first to protest and later to complain in their memoirs. 

Vasconcelos several times disclaimed personal responsibility for the artists’ work: 

Me limito a procurar ofrecer a todos elementos para que trabajen, sin preocuparme mucho del trabajo mismo.[15] 

‘I limited myself to trying to offer to everyone the means to do their work without preoccupying myself much with the work itself.’ 

toda me estética pictórica se reduce a dos términos: que pinten pronto y que llenen muchos muros: velocidad y superficie.

all my visual aesthetics were reduced to two terms: that they paint quickly and that they fill many walls: speed and area.’ 

However much Vasconcelos distanced himself from the muralists’ productions, he still recognized them as artists.  As a professional philosopher, Vasconcelos had defined views on art and creativity.  That is, his attitude towards the artists emerged from his theory of art.  Jean Charlot stated:

Now as philosophy goes, Vasconcelos has his place in Mexican philosophy.  I had to read his books (I say I had to read his books because they are not too easy for a painter to read) to understand why that man suddenly offered walls in the most hallowed buildings in Mexico City, which is still known as the city of palaces, to young men who perhaps had not already made their proofs, and let those young men express themselves freely, absolutely freely, on the very large scale with which you are now familiar.[16] 

Vasconcelos’ policy was not without cost.  The murals were unpopular and thus harmful to Vasconcelos’ reputation and career: for instance, the bad impression made by Rivera’s Creation stimulated press attacks not only against the artist but against his patron, “a los dos.”[17]  Why then did he promote them?  Charlot writes: “The answer lies deep within his subconscious, a puzzle that an analysis of his political and official activities fails to solve.”[18]  Throughout his tempestuous career, Vasconcelos had remained a follower of Pythagoras and his theories of the social benefits of the arts.[19]  However, to be beneficial, the arts had to be authentic, that is, free from external constraints: “To remain Pythagorean, art must be acted in full liberty…Under penalty of nullifying his aims, the Secretary could impose neither subject matter nor style.”[20]  Charlot’s appeal to the subconscious is unusual in his writings, and Vasconcelos emphasized the point in his letter to Charlot after reading a draft of the passage:

Su trabajo me parece excelente.  Su penetración psicologica es realmente profunda.  Gracias por la simpatía con [la que] me juzges.[21]

‘Your draft seems excellent to me.  Your psychological penetration is really profound.  Thank you for the sympathy with which you judge me.’

Vasconcelos was, therefore, deliberately avoiding the kind of direction that would have resulted in propaganda art, which, according to his philosophical views, would have been no art at all.  He was conscious, however, of the danger that muralism would become propagandistic once he was out of power.[22]

Vasconcelos did not interfere even when the muralists’ subjects displeased him; he “was distraught when ‘his’ muralists chose to work in a didactic mode….”[23]  Indeed, even Rivera, returning from the Paris avant-garde, was initially disturbed by “the resurrection of didactic painting that surged as an aftermath of the Revolution.”[24]  As early as the 1920s, Charlot found Vasconcelos “A knight of hispanism”; indeed, Vasconcelos accorded a privileged position to European culture, Roman Catholicism, and even the white race.[25]  He was, therefore, unsympathetic to the muralists’ emphasis on Mexican Indian art.[26]  Siqueiros remembered how Vasconcelos found “detestable” the increasing indigenist interests of the artists: “asombrosa paradoja, el hombre que hizo posible la aparición material de nuestra obra pictórica, sintió desprecio por ella” ‘amazing paradox, the man who made possible the material appearance of our pictorial work felt scorn for it.’[27]  Rufino Tamayo echoed this puzzlement in more drastic terms: “Aun cuando no le gustaba la pintura mexicana, creó las circunstancias adecuadas para que floreciera” ‘Even when Mexican painting was not to his taste, he created the adequate circumstances for it to flourish.’[28] 

The above picture is complicated, however, by evidence of Vasconcelos’ occasional influence on the choice of themes and, in the case of Rivera, on style.  He gave Montenegro a quotation from Goethe as the subject of his first mural: “ŃAcción supera al destino: vence!” ‘Action overcomes destiny: conquer!’[29]  He was worried about Rivera’s modernistic tendencies:

porque pintaba cubismo y éste no era adaptable a mi juicio para obras del Estado.  Traia en la cabeza a Picasso––[30]

‘because he was painting Cubism, and this was not adaptable, in my judgment, to works of the State.  He had Picasso in his head—’

Vasconcelos expresses himself very generally about his role in the choice of subject of Rivera’s Creation: “Lo puse a estudiar un mural de tema universal…” “I put him to work on a mural with a universal theme….”[31]  Although the precise subject is not stated, Vasconcelos was clearly pushing Rivera in the direction of the symbolism he appreciated in the Nationalist artists.  In my opinion, Rivera was influenced by Vasconcelos’ philosophical ideas in Creation, especially in the abstract symbolism at its apex.  Ever the courtier, Rivera would have sniffed out Vasconcelos’ taste, and he in fact based Creation on Montenegro’s first mural––which he knew Vasconcelos admired––transforming the scheme into a monumental masterpiece. 

Vasconcelos was much more direct for the first stage of Rivera’s work at the Secretariat.  He was reacclimating Rivera to Mexico, subsidizing his trips to Yucatán and Tehuántepec and associating him with Montenegro and Best Maugard, whose lectures on Mexican art were attended by Rivera.  Moreover, Creation had been received badly, and both the artist and the patron were being attacked by the press.  To save Rivera—“Para salvarlo”—Vasconcelos decided for the Secretariat on “temas nacionales y le di los temas” ‘national themes, and I gave him the themes.’[32]  By “temas nacionales,” Vasconcelos meant the kind of work that the Nationalists were producing, as seen by the fact that the stairway was originally offered to Best Maugard.  When that artist failed to provide preparatory sketches, Vasconcelos gave:

la escalera a Rivera, dandole como tema el ascenso de la costa, al altiplanicie.  Fue esto la primera obra de Diego de inspiración mexicana

‘the stairway to Rivera, giving him as theme the ascent from the coast to the high plateau.  This was Diego’s first work of Mexican inspiration.’ 

Except for the top floor, Rivera handled this landscape subject in a style reminiscent of Gauguin’s exoticism—halfway, as it were, between Montenegro and the style he would adopt in the first patio of the Secretariat.[33]

On the above evidence, Vasconcelos seldom suggested subjects.  There is no record of him suggesting any to Jorge Enciso, and Vasconcelos states of Dr. Atl: “Él creo sus temas” ‘He created his themes.’[34]  Moreover, the themes Vasconcelos suggested were very general, not detailed programs.  Also, those themes all accorded with his taste for symbolism and picturesqueness ą la Montenegro.  Finally, his suggestions were directed to a particular set of artists: his favorite Montenegro and his quasi-protégé Rivera.  I conclude that Vasconcelos was focusing his attention on the artists he considered more important and ignoring those he thought less.  He is happy to acknowledge his role in the work of the older, established artists and anxious to disclaim any responsibility for the younger, unarrived ones.  Indeed, the artists who claim to have had complete freedom––Leal, Charlot, and Siqueiros (then a “pintor desconocido” ‘unknown painter’)[35]––belonged to the younger set of artists in the early movement.  The younger artists were, therefore, left free to develop their own subjects in the Escuela Preparatoria.  One reason for Vasconcelos’ working differently with two sets of artists was probably that he was so enormously busy.  He gave the little time he had for the muralists to the ones he thought would have the greatest consequence. 

The most cited example of Vasconcelos’ influence is that he set the subjects for the second court of the Secretariat of Education: trabajos and fiestas ‘occupations and festivals’ or “Labor and Festivals.”  This has been viewed as the imposition of the government’s propagandistic purpose on the artists.  However, a closer examination of the event leads to a different conclusion.  Indeed, this event is a turning-point in Vasconcelos’ exercise of patronage. 

Vasconcelos’ actions can best be understood by seeing that he was continuing his practice of treating the older group of artists differently from the younger.  His address at the inauguration of the Secretariat, his earliest recorded plan for the artworks in the building, concerns the older group exclusively––Montenegro, Best Maugard, and Rivera––and describes more folkloric and decorative subjects: picturesque folk costumes, Rivera’s stairway landscape, “an Indian shooting his arrow at the stars,” and “fantastic drawings.”[36]

No mention is made in the address of the younger artists or of trabajos and fiestas.  Indeed, those subjects correspond neither to Vasconcelos’ taste in art nor to his earlier recommendations for the Secretariat subjects, described above.  Why then did he choose them as subjects for the second court?  A clue is provided by the fact that second patio was originally given exclusively to a team of three young artists who had been working in the Escuela Preparatoria: Xavier Guerrero, Amado de la Cueva, and Charlot.  Rivera disclaimed responsibility for their work, in his own words: “the painting…of the second patio…with which the contractor Rivera has had nothing to do because the Citizen Secretary ordered the works of the inner patio….”[37]  This accords with Charlot’s memory: “The court that we three were to decorate was named the Court of Labor and Festivals, and was to receive an equal number of panels on each theme.”[38]  Vasconcelos, therefore, gave the subjects to the young muralists directly, not through Rivera.  The patron was dealing personally with a distinct set of artists. 

Although trabajos and fiestas did not accord with Vasconcelos’ tendencies, they corresponded, in fact, to the subjects of the younger set of artists in the Preparatoria, subjects they had chosen themselves.  Fernando Leal’s Pilgrimage of Chalma and Fermín Revueltas’ Virgin of Guadalupe had pioneered in muralism the folk subjects that would later provide the major content for the movement.  Vasconcelos was not imposing his ideas on the artists; he was simply allowing them to continue in the direction they were already working.  In all likelihood then, the subjects trabajos and fiestas did not come originally from the patron but from the artists.  That Vasconcelos accepted trabajos and fiestas is greatly to his credit as patron, because he knew from the murals in the Preparatoria that the young artists had burst the stylistic boundaries of costumbres, the depiction of picturesque folk activities.  In fact, Vasconcelos was never reconciled to this direction of the movement he himself had initiated and continued to patronize.  But after the artists had won their subjects, they then realized them without interference and with all their artistic passion and integrity. 

I conclude, therefore, that in the Secretariat, Vasconcelos set different subjects for two distinct groups of artists.  Montenegro was to continue with his characteristic work, which Vasconcelos preferred above all; Rivera was to move away from his more symbolist work to something more “national” (by this Vasconcelos is thinking of the “Nationalists” of the Montenegro type).  The younger set were to continue their Preparatoria vein in the least public and prestigious section of the Secretariat, the inner courtyard, used later at various times as a general storage area.  The younger artists needed no encouragement to be Mexican.  They were simply continuing in the direction they had initiated in the Escuela Preparatoria. 

This is the context in which Vasconcelos’ statement can be understood: “Como tema para los patios le di a Diego los trabajos y las fiestas” ‘As theme for the patios I gave Diego labor and festivals.’[39]  In his manuscript, he separates this statement with a line from his narrative of the beginning of the work at the Secretariat.  Unless the statement is partly a memory mistake, it must refer to an event after the Secretariat mural painting was already underway.  Vasconcelos’ statement refers to both the first and second courtyards, but the above evidence demonstrates that their subjects were originally treated separately: trabajos and fiestas for the second and more picturesque subjects for the first.  Moreover, whereas earlier Rivera disclaimed responsibility for the work going on in the second court, this statement assumes that he as “contractor” had some authority over it.  The historical moment that best fits Vasconcelos’ statement is when 1) Rivera’s authority was increasing, 2) he had abandoned his symbolic or picturesque subjects for the great series of socially conscious murals in the first court, and 3) he was also starting to use his authority to take possession of walls in the second court.[40]  An example of how Rivera used his authority was told to me by my father.  When in order to use the wall himself, Rivera wanted to destroy Charlot’s 1923 mural Danza de los Listones ‘Dance of the Ribbons,’ he told Charlot that the subjects had been changed from trabajos and fiestas to trabajos alone.  Vasconcelos mentions the destroyed mural with regret: “Despues Charlot hizo el precioso fresco del volantín en la Secretaria” ‘Later Charlot created the precious fresco of the kite in the Secretariat.’[41] 

Vasconcelos had never been a dictatorial patron, but after the events in the Secretariat, he seems largely to have stopped trying to influence the choice of subjects or styles.  He certainly kept his distance as José Clemente Orozco began his mural career in the Preparatoria. 

The question of patronage has often been discussed in abstract terms: the government gave orders to the artists.  However, “the government” in this case comes down to one man, and the question cannot be discussed without examining him as an individual.[42]  Vasconcelos intended the artists’ work to contribute more generally to education and cultural refinement and was anxious to avoid propaganda art.  Indeed, the murals that looked most “propagandistic” were those he liked least and vice versa. 

It was the artists themselves who were impressed by the government’s programs of reconstruction and reform—such as bringing education to the villages—and elected to publicize and support those efforts.  Working against the taste of the bourgeoisie and officialdom––and even most of the contemporary artists and critics––they realized long before the politicians the power of art to communicate the new social ideas to the people and to construct a reformed image of the nation.  Their positive depictions of government programs, illustrations of revolutionary ideology, and depictions of a just society were not dictated by the government but imposed by the artists themselves on an unhappy Vasconcelos. 

Indeed, a definitive argument against the idea that the murals were commissioned as propaganda is that they were largely ignored, disliked, and even threatened with destruction by government officials during the 1920s.[43]  The murals began to be used in official programs only after 1930.[44]  Post-1930 problems with patronage have, however, largely defined the discussion of the subject and have been projected anachronistically back into the earliest period of muralism.[45]  As the government became despotic, its commissions were increasingly tainted, and favored artists like Rivera were accused of letting themselves be appropriated by an unworthy regime.  From Rivera’s late career until today, his alleged collaboration hinders for many a full appreciation of his art, and more oppositional figures, like Siqueiros and Orozco, are preferred.  However, even such anti-establishment artists were granted government commissions and accepted them. 

Charlot himself always thought criticisms of accepting government patronage were anachronistic.  The government controlled the public buildings that contained the walls appropriate to the murals the artists wanted to paint.  Orozco’s privately commissioned 1925 mural Omniscience in the House of Tiles was a rare exception.  As an art historian, Charlot knew also that from earliest antiquity, the great majority of public and monumental art had been commissioned by political and religious institutions.  Most important, Charlot himself experienced the idealistic age of early muralism from 1921 until the resignation of Vasconcelos in 1924, the period during which the aims of the artists and the government programs––especially those of Vasconcelos––coincided.  Charlot left Mexico before the deterioration of the 1930s and never had to face the later problems of accommodation and compromise. 

Despite all the genuine problems of government patronage, Mexico must be recognized as a country that expends an unusual amount of its limited resources on its cultural treasures.  In the 1920s, Edward Weston wrote that the rich Yankees admired but did not buy his photographs; but “The Mexicans, impoverished from the revolution, complained of the prices, yet they bought.”[46]  José Guadalupe Zuno, governor of Jalisco and patron of the artists, bought Weston’s prints for the state museum: “But hail to Sr. Zuno for being such an appreciative patron!”[47]  Even the archbishop of Mexico, Luis Maria Martínez, could commission his 1944 official portrait from Orozco: 

Either these clerical patrons—as did Father Couturier in France—prized genius over faith, or else and more probably, being themselves Mexican, they allowed for tantrums between a child and his mother, be it his Mother the Church.[48] 

A positive parallel can be found in the support provided by Vasconcelos and others in the government to Mexican novelists.[49]  Novelists of the revolution like Mariano Azuela were largely ignored by the Mexican public and even compelled to publish abroad.  Government officials, interested in supporting authentic Mexican novels, provided patronage which brought the novelists recognition and fame.  This patronage was offered without censorship or attempts to influence the writers, even though they were presenting a negative view of the Revolution.  Indeed complaints were made that the government was supporting its critics.  The government had the courage and good taste to continue its support, and the novelists have endowed the world with a great narrative of Mexican history.  Similarly, an avant-garde poet like Manuel Maples Arce could be supported by being made an ambassador, even though he presented no threat that required his appropriation. 

The end result of Mexican patronage is a legacy of great art.  The Mexican Mural Renaissance is thus essentially different from the Soviet program of Socialist Realism.  Whatever their faults, the responsible Mexican officials have been people of taste and genuine appreciation of the arts, both publicly and privately.  With the major exception of Orozco’s murals in the Palace of Justice, violent oppositional images have been accepted into public buildings.  Obstreperous artists like Siqueiros have been accorded an unusual latitude for criticism, both visual and verbal.  Parallels can be found in the enlightened support for cinema by the governments of China and Vietnam.[50]  Indeed, Vietnamese directors find Americans more subservient to financiers than they themselves are to censors.  We must recognize that the patronage of the Mexican government has enriched world culture with major artworks that otherwise would never have been created.  We can also recognize that José Vasconcelos was the greatest of Mexico’s patrons. 




Amero, Emilio, 1947.  “La Pintura Mural de México, 1920–1924.”  Published 2006 on the Jean Charlot Foundation Web site. 

Catlin, Stanton L., 1986.  “Mural Census.” Helms 1986: 235–335.


Charlot, Jean, 1943.  “Interesting display of Mexican art now at Michael’s.”  Banner-Herald, February 3, p. 1, col. 5; p. 3, col. 1.


––––1946.  “Pre-Hispanic Quota in Mexican Murals.”  The Kenyon Review, Volume VIII, Number 1, Winter, pp. 1–13. 

––––1952.  Review of Samuel Ramos: Acuarelas de Diego Rivera.  Magazine of Art, Volume 45, Number 3, March, pp. 139 f. 

––––1960.   “Mexican Renaissance,” lecture delivered at the Art Department, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, May 11.  Published on the Jean Charlot Foundation Web site. 

––––1965 [?].  “Mexican Painting.”  Original typescript for Encyclopedia Junior Britannica.

––––1967.   The Mexican Mural Renaissance: 1920–1925.  New Haven and London: Yale University Press.  Abbreviation: MMR. 

––––1972.  An Artist on Art: Collected Essays of Jean Charlot, Volume 2: Mexican Art.  Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.  Abbreviated: AA II. 

––––1979.  “José Guadalupe Posada and his successors.”  In Posada’s Mexico, edited by Ron Tyler.  Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress in cooperation with the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, pp. 29–57. 

Charlot, John, 1991.  “Vietnamese Cinema: First Views.”  Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Volume 22, Number 1, March, pp. 33–62. 

Coffey, Mary Katherine, 2002.  “Muralism and the People: Culture, Popular Citizenship, and Government in Post-Revolutionary Mexico.”  The Communication Review, Volume 5, pp. 7–38.

Coleby, Nicola, 1999.  “El Temprano Muralism Posrevolucionario: ņRuptura o Continuidad?”  In Memoria Congreso Internacional de Muralismo, pp. 15-38. 

Fell, Claude, 1989.  José Vasconcelos: Los AĖos del Águila (1920-1925): Educación, Cultura e Iberoamericanismo en el México Postrevolucionario.  Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Folgarait, Leonard, 1998. Mural Painting and Social Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Helms, Cynthia Newman, 1986.  Diego Rivera: A Retrospective.  Detroit: Founders Society Detroit Institute of Arts; New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 

Krauze, Enrique, 1999.  Caudillos Culturales en la Revolución Mexicana.  Mexico: Tusquets Editores. 

Leal, Fernando, 1990.  El Arte y los Monstruos.  Mexico City: Instituto Politecnico Nacional. 

Memoria Congreso Internacional de Muralismo: San Ildefonso, cuna del Muralismo Mexicano: reflexiones historiográficas y artísticas, 1999.  Mexico: D. R. Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso. 

Mijangos, Mario, 2000.  El otro Tamayo: Su intimidad, sus juicios y debilidades.  Mexico: Editorial Diana. 

Ortiz Gaitán, Julieta, 1994.  Entre Dos Mundos: Los Murales de Roberto Montenegro.  Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Pérez Montfort, Ricardo, 1999.  “Muralismo y Nacionalismo Popular 1920-1930.”  In Memoria Congreso Internacional de Muralismo, pp. 173–205. 

Reed, Alma, 1956.  Orozco.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Rutherford, John, 1971.  Mexican Society during the Revolution: A Literary Approach.  Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Siqueiros, David Alfaro, 1977.  Me Llamaban el Coronelazo.  Mexico: Grijalbo. 

Vasconcelos, José, October 17, 1945.  Untitled manuscript on the Mexican Mural Renaissance written for Jean Charlot.  Unpublished, the Jean Charlot Collection. 

––––1982.  Memorias, Volume 2, El Desastre, El Proconsolado; letras mexicanas.  Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica. 

Weston, Edward, [1961].  The Daybooks of Edward Weston (ed. Nancy Newhall), Volume I: Mexico.  Rochester: George Eastman House. 


[1] E.g., Pérez Montfort 1999.  All unpublished materials are in the Jean Charlot Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawai`i, Honolulu, Hawai`i.  Some materials cited may be found on the Web site of the Jean Charlot Foundation:  I thank Lew Andrews and Anna Indych-Lopez for their valuable comments and criticisms and Gustavo Vazquez Lozano for his excellent translation and editorial patience.

[2] AA II: 20. 

[3] Charlot 1943. 

[4] Fell 1989. 

[5] MMR 82–94.  Charlot 1960. 

[6] AA II: 20. 

[7] Charlot 1965. 

[8] Vasconcelos 1982: 33.  Krauze 1999: 120–125. 

[9] Fell 1989: 384, 392, 407 f., 418 f., 427, 431 f. 

[10] Vasconcelos 1982: 166, 233.  Fell 1989: 381–384.  Coleby 1999: 24.  On the Nationalists, see MMR 55–66.

[11] E.g., Vasconcelos 1982: 166.  Charlot 1960, “Vasconcelos truly was more inclined as a person toward music and  poetry than he was toward painting”; MMR 89. 

[12] MMR 166 f. 

[13] Leal 1990: 195; also 174 f. 

[14] Leal 1990: 90. 

[15] Fell 1989: 418.  Also for following. 

[16] Charlot 1960.  See also MMR 94. 

[17] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945. 

[18] MMR 90.

[19] MMR 90–94. 

[20] MMR 94. 

[21] Vasconcelos to Charlot July 12, 1945. 

[22] Vasconcelos 1982: 214, 262 f. 

[23] Charlot 1979: 47.

[24] Charlot 1952: 140.  

[25] Charlot 1946: 13.  Fell 1989: 646 f. 

[26] E.g., Fell 1989: 383, 641. 

[27] Siqueiros 1977: 183 f. 

[28] Mijangos 2000: 198. 

[29] Vasconcelos 1982: 26.  The mural has since been know by several titles: El Árbol de la VidaThe Tree of Life,’ La danza de las horasThe Dance of the Hours,’ and El arbol de la CienciaThe Tree of Knowledge’ (Ortiz Gaitán 1994: 90).  Vasconcelos also urged Montenegro to clothe in armor and render more masculine the original androgynous nude (Ortiz Gaitán 1994: 93).  The only report I know of Vasconcelos’ actually interfering in the subject of an on-going project is by Emilio Amero, who hints that Rivera put him up to it (Amero 1947; MMR 269 ff.). 

[30] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945. 

[31] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945.  Translation from MMR 135.  Folgarait 1998: 41, provides no reference for his statement that “the theme of The Creation was given to Rivera by Vasconcelos.” 

[32] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945.

[33] Rivera’s mural in the staircase was begun early, but was long in completion and interrupted by work elsewhere in the Secretariat.  Catlin 1986: 247, argues that Rivera developed his signature style through his work on this mural.  Certainly, the style of the top floor differs markedly from that of the lower floors. 

[34] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945. 

[35] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945. 

[36] MMR 254 ff. Vasconcelos October 17, 1945: “El flechador del cielo” ‘The archer of the sky.”

[37] MMR 271 f. 

[38] MMR 272. 

[39] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945.  MMR 272 f.   

[40] MMR 278 f.  The information in Folgarait 1998: 81, is faulty.

[41] Vasconcelos October 17, 1945.  Vasconcelos’ memory confuses ribbons with kite strings.  On Rivera’s using subjects against other artists, see possibly Amero 1947. 

[42] Compare the situation in Vietnamese cinema:

This quasi-independence of film makers is reinforced by the prestige accorded the arts in Vietnamese culture (many of the major politicians are published poets), by an anti-authoritarian streak in the Vietnamese personality, and by a certain humorous and personal approach.  That is, there is concern not about the constitutional question––whether government interference is legal––but about the individual government official in charge of one's department.  If he is good, his subordinates feel he is a help rather than a hindrance, even if he in fact possesses the power of interference.  As [film director] Dang Nhat Minh once said, “Why are Americans worried about government control of our films?  For me, who is the government?  It's Mr. Thu!”  Similarly, when [vice-minister for culture and the arts] Dinh Quang told me he had just directed a play satirizing Vietnamese society and I asked him whether he'd submitted it to the censors, he said, “I was the censor.  I was both judge and jury!”  (John Charlot 1991: 38)


[43] MMR 90.  

[44] Coffey 2002: 15–25, 28. 

[45] Coffey 2002: 16 f. 

[46] Weston 1961: 66. 

[47] Weston 1961: 127; also 67. 

[48] AA II: 319.  On tantrums, see Reed 1956: 302 f. 

[49] Rutherford 1971: 51–68. 

[50] E.g., John Charlot 1991.