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Remembering Mexican Realist Painter David Alfaro Siqueiros on His Birthday

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David Alfaro Siqueiros

Today in 1896, Mexican realist painter and muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and at an early age became a social activist joining the Mexican Revolution Army while in college at the Franco-English College in Mexico City. The multi-talented artist remained true to the cause of class warfare and was often jailed for leading student strikes and trying to topple Mexican dictatorships.

Siqueiros is one of the trio of Mexican great muralists, “Los Tres Grandes”, that includes Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. The lifelong communist imbedded his left-leaning views into his most iconic murals. Like many other painters with an opposing point of view in Mexico, he sought refuge in the United States. In one of his sojourns to the U.S. he was anart teacher that welcomed the yet unknown Jackson Pollock to his classroom. During World War II the U.S. paid him to tour Latin American and promote his anti-Fascism message.

He painted his first mural in 1923 in Mexico City’s National Preparatory School where of his most iconic and viewed mural resides in the Palace of Fine Arts. The “New Democracy” mural was painted in 1944 followed by his representation of Mexican muralists in the Venice Biennale in 1950, where he came in second place. The 1950s are considered Siqueiros most prolific period where he painted in the National Autonomous University and the ‘Velocity” mural in the Chrysler Building in New York. He is credited with inventing the “accidental painting” technique that highly influenced modern art, whereby he poured layers of paint of different “colors on a horizontal surface” to explore new paint behaviors.

Regardless of his fame and talent Mexico incarcerated the painter often for opposing their authority. In 1960 he faced solitary confinement and after nearly 4 years in prison was released. Many notable Americans and Europeans
advocated for his release including Picasso and President Jack Kennedy and his wife Jackie Kennedy.

Siqueiros died in Cuernavaca, Mexico on January 6, 1974.

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