In Mexico there have been many women artists, but those who have always been referred to are Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, and Leonora Carrington, the latter two of European origin; Varo, Spanish, lived in Mexico from 1940 until her death in 1963; and Carrington, British, arrived in Mexico in 1943, the country where she died in 2011. Although they weren’t born in Mexico, they are considered Mexican artists, since they developed their work in that country, the place from which they became known internationally.

But let’s go with the case that corresponds to us this time, María Izquierdo, a talented contemporary painter to the aforementioned triad of artists, who was born in Jalisco, Mexico, in 1902, and died in Mexico City, in 1955. She came from a family of more indigenous descent than mestizo.

Regarding her academic education, Izquierdo studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, at the end of the 1920s. An institution directed by Diego Rivera a few months after she entered. There she took painting, composition, color, and art history classes and had important artists of the time as teachers, such as Rufino Tamayo, for example, with whom she related professionally and sentimentally. For this reason, she received a lot of artistic influence from Tamayo, which can be seen in her production made between 1929 and 1933, a period in which both shared a workshop, whose theme revolved around portraits of people close to her, such as family and friends.

1. María Izquierdo. Naturaleza viva con huachinango.
Her first individual exhibition was held in 1929, at the Galería de Arte Moderno del Teatro Nacional, now called the Palacio de Bellas Artes, directed by another renowned Mexican artist, Carlos Mérida. This exhibition had extensive coverage in the media of the time, whose introductory text of the catalog was written by Diego Rivera, who outlined the great development of the young artist, whom he considered one of the most interesting figures in the Mexican artistic field.
In 1930, the artist was invited by the New York Art Center to hold an individual exhibition in its spaces, where she showed portraits, landscapes, nudes and still lifes, being presented as the first Mexican artist to exhibit her work in the United States.
It is important to point out that in 1936, the French poet, playwright and actor, Antonín Artaud, traveled to Mexico and upon discovering Izquierdo’s work he felt very attracted to her compositions, and that motivated him to publicize the work of the Mexican painter in his country, where she finally exhibits in 1937. In her exhibition career, Izquierdo, in addition to the United States and France, also presented her visual production in countries such as Japan, India, Brazil and Chile.
2. María Izquierdo. Sueño y presentimiento.
The interest in Izquierdo’s painting was also expressed by other personalities such as the Mexican artist José Luis Cuevas and the Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, who express their opinions about her work in the extensive catalog ─the widest of those that were used to being made in that period─ published on the occasion of her exhibition held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in 1943.
Although Izquierdo had the admiration of many artists and writers, she also had her detractors, because, as the artist herself said: “It is a crime to be a woman and to have talent.” Diego Rivera, who supported her from the beginning at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, then, in 1945, participated together with Orozco and Siqueiros in preventing the artist from carrying out a mural project that they offered her to do in the Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento, in Mexico City, arguing that she didn’t have the technical preparation to make murals and that her artistic style didn’t conform to the postulates of muralism, but it was really because muralism was considered to be male domain, only for men, and, furthermore, it was monopolized by the three greats of Mexican muralism, to which is added Izquierdo’s feminist position and her aesthetic orientation towards avant-garde European art, which she complemented with elements of Mexican culture, distant from ideological, nationalist content, developing a work influenced strongly for surrealism, but with a very personal poetics (1)(2).
3. María Izquierdo. La tierra

Among the themes that Izquierdo worked on are portraits, self-portraits, still lifes, children, nude women, kneeling, tied to columns, maternity, dancers, characters and circus scenes, animals, as well as Mexican and indigenous traditions, particularly; but her women, recurrent images in her paintings, she represented with a markedly melancholic aspect, as if they were experiencing great loneliness (3).

One of the most significant elements of visual expression in Izquierdo’s painting is color, and she made clear in a conversation with the French Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska, to whom she said: “There are seven colors that matter to me: red, vermilion, carmine, ocher, white, pink (the pink of the indigenous) and tezontle (burnt ground of Michoacán)”. Warm colors, earth tones and reds prevail in her work.
Unfortunately, as has happened with many artists, both men and women, María Izquierdo, heroine of modern Mexican art, died sick and poor; and although she received very good attention from critics at the time, after her death she fell practically into oblivion.
Alejandra Perez. Cenizas del bosque


Written by José Gregorio Noroño,

 Arte Original.

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