Times & Places

Mexico: Mexican Muralism (1900-1950)

The bourgeoning arts scene in Mexico during the first half of the 20th century is usually associated with the Mexican School of Painting and with muralism, its best-known movement. A realist practice promoted and supported by the Mexican government, muralism aimed to bring art closer to the people of Mexico. In turn, a large portion of the work produced between 1900 and 1950 used clear, direct political and social messages. Muralism reached its height during the early decades of last century and has been singled out as the driving force behind this prolific era.

The most visible artists during this era are known as Los Tres Grandes, or the “Big Three”: José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera. Despite the fact that they are often grouped together, they had distinct visual languages and subject matters. A diversity of themes and aesthetic continuity existed in Mexican art during this timeframe, and Mexican artists garnered international success in the wake of the 20th century. A number of artists overshadowed the “Big Three,” who over the last few decades have added Frida Kahlo to their ranks. Foreign artists were attracted to Mexico, and there was a strong influence of Mexican art abroad.

In the late 1930s, Mexico would become the hinge on which two hemispheres of the surrealist movement would fold. For European artists and writers fleeing the onslaught of World War II, Mexico was a site equipped to hold surrealist encounters with the nation’s natural environment and cultural past. André Breton, enchanted by the traditions and captivated by the abundant flora, fauna, and seemingly untamable nature of the country, declared Mexico “the surrealist place par excellence.” Many Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and María Izquierdo welcomed surrealist tenets into their lives and artistic practices as a way to negotiate their conflicting artistic, national, and for some, gender identities.

However, artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera were deeply influenced by direct contact with European expressionists. They, and artists like them, refined their techniques and expanded their visual vocabularies abroad and returned to Mexico seeking to develop a new, nationalistic art movement. Social realism and the muralist movement were in full swing by the 1930s, and artists worked in a monumental scale to express political ideologies and social commentaries. This method of artistic production created a multidimensional aesthetic lens through which Mexico and the work of its artists can be viewed and interpreted today.

Artists of various nationalities worked in Mexico in the early 20th century. In many ways, these artists should be considered colleagues: they lived and worked in the same regions, drew inspiration from the same natural and cultural sources, relied on the same visual vocabulary, and sought to share the common values shared by many of Mexico’s indigenous cultures.

Adapted from

  • México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant Garde, Gallery text [Introduction], 2017.
  • Tower Gallery: Latin American Art, Gallery text [Mexico: 1930s–1950s], 2017.

Related Multimedia

Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University
Gallery talk by Paulina Lopez, McDermott Intern for Visitor Engagement, DMA
Audio files
Solis provides highlights of the Center's activities and accomplishments and announces the Elante Award recipient. Dr. Arteaga talks about the exhibition Mexico 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco and the Avant-Garde.
Symposium in conjunction with Art in Post-Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1950, September 16, 1999-February 13, 2000; cosponsored with Mexican Cultural Center; Speakers include Alicia Azuela, art historian, " The Mexican Artistic Renaissance and its Various Expressions; Rina Lazo, artist, "A Dream of Painting on Sunday Afternoon with Diego Rivera: What I Learned from the Mexican Master; Arturo Garcia Bustos, artist, "My Participation in the Mexican Mural Movement (in Spanish); panel moderator Dr. Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Assistant Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin
Gallery talk by Dr. Adam Herring, Emily Rich Summers Endowed Professor of Art History, SMU
Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University
panel discussion in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Zamudio-Taylor is curatorial advisor for the Televisa Cultural Foundation and the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Archives, Mexico City; Jimenez is featured in exhibition
Audio files
Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University
All DMA Members are invited to an exclusive opportunity to hear Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), talk about the exhibition México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde.
Gallery Talk by Olivier Meslay, Senior Curator of European and American Art, DMA
Audio Files
lecture in conjunction with Art in Post–Revolutionary Mexico, 1920–1950, September 16, 1999–February 13, 2000; speaker is an independent art historian; discusses Gunther Gerzso;
Symposium in conjunction with Art in Post-Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1950, September 16, 1999-February 13, 2000; cosponsored with Mexican Cultural Center; Speakers include Alicia Azuela, art historian, " The Mexican Artistic Renaissance and its Various Expressions; Rina Lazo, artist, "A Dream of Painting on Sunday Afternoon with Diego Rivera: What I Learned from the Mexican Master; Arturo Garcia Bustos, artist, "My Participation in the Mexican Mural Movement (in Spanish); panel moderator Dr. Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Assistant Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin
Docent lecture in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001;
Art historian, critic, and biographer Hayden Herrera talks about her book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, sharing insights into the art and life of this renowned artist whose self-portraits illustrate Kahlo's tumultuous marriage to the muralist Diego Rivera. Additionally, Herrera will discuss Kahlo's paintings that express anguish over her broken body and multiple surgeries; portraits and still-lifes that underscore both her passion for Mexico and her leftist political views; and finally the paintings that suggest the joy Frida Kahlo took in nature as revealed in her depictions of fruits, vines, roots, flowers, and animals, including her pet monkeys, dogs, cats, and parrots. Herrera's other biographies include Pulitzer Prize nominee Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work and Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Audio Files
Celebration of the Mexican Revoluntion; in conjunction with Art in Post-Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1950, September 16, 1999-February 13, 2000; Faris is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Univ. of Texas at Arlington; Toledano is Mexican writer and editor; discussing novels of Carlos Fuentes and Martin Luis Guzman
Late Night Lecture with Dr. Ron Tyler, Director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Piano Music from Mexico and the United States, is an engaging recital program presented by Mexican pianist Mauricio Náder. This concert invites the audience into a universe of Romanticism and Folklore as imagined during the 1900s by diverse eminent composers from Mexico and the United States. 
Celebration of the Mexican Revoluntion; in conjunction with Art in Post-Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1950, September 16, 1999-February 13, 2000; Faris is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Univ. of Texas at Arlington; Toledano is Mexican writer and editor; discussing novels of Carlos Fuentes and Martin Luis Guzman
Audio Files
Audio files
Audio files
Stunning visual works by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and José Clemente Orozco set the scene for a unique chamber music experience involving Dallas Symphony Orchestra musicians inspired by the Dallas Museum of Art's México 1900â0131950 exhibition. SOLUNA is a festival for Dallas, bringing together international artists with Dallas's finest arts organizations. Anchored by performances with Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, SOLUNA celebrates Dallas's rich cultural legacy and diversity of expression.
Audio
Audio Files
Symposium in conjunction with Art in Post-Revolutionary Mexico, 1920-1950, September 16, 1999-February 13, 2000; cosponsored with Mexican Cultural Center; Speakers include Alicia Azuela, art historian, " The Mexican Artistic Renaissance and its Various Expressions; Rina Lazo, artist, "A Dream of Painting on Sunday Afternoon with Diego Rivera: What I Learned from the Mexican Master; Arturo Garcia Bustos, artist, "My Participation in the Mexican Mural Movement (in Spanish); panel moderator Dr. Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, Assistant Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin
Gallery talk by Jessica Harden, Director of Exhibition and Museum Design, DMA
Audio files
Audio Files
Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University
panel discussion in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Zamudio-Taylor is curatorial advisor for the Televisa Cultural Foundation and the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Archives, Mexico City; Jimenez is featured in exhibition
Gallery talk by Marta Torres, McDermott Graduate Intern for Visitor Engagement, DMA
Explore masterpieces of Mexican modern art with Dr. Agustín Arteaga, The Eugene McDermott Director of the DMA and the organizing curator for México 1900-1950. Dr. Arteaga discusses key themes in the exhibition, which documents an artistic renaissance in Mexico through painting, sculpture, film, photography, and printmaking. 
Docent lecture in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001;
Why has the ever-changing world of fashion been obsessed with Frida Kahlo for decades? Known as much for her style as for her art, the artist has remained one of the most iconic women of the last century. In Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being, journalist and author Susana Martínez Vidal examines Kahloâ019s captivating aesthetic and her influence on art and fashion. Vidal shares twenty fashion and life lessons that Frida Kahlo left us.
¿Por qué el mundo de la moda ha estado obsesionado con Frida Kahlo durante décadas? Conocida tanto por su estilo, como por su arte, la artista sigue siendo una de las mujeres más emblemáticas del siglo pasado. En Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being periodista y autora Susana Martínez Vidal examina la cautivante estética de Kahlo y su influencia en el arte y la moda. En esta charla, Vidal compartirá veinte lecciones de moda y vida que Frida Kahlo nos dejó.
panel discussion in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Zamudio-Taylor is curatorial advisor for the Televisa Cultural Foundation and the Manuel Alvarez Bravo Photography Archives, Mexico City; Jimenez is featured in exhibition
Audio
While Frida Kahlo is one of the most recognizable artists of the Mexican School. A number of women made their mark on the Mexican art scene of the early 20th century, and they continue to inform generations of women artists. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, will lead a conversation about the work of women Mexican modernists, both famous and lesser known, and their legacy in contemporary art. Panelists include: Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Director of the DePaul Art Museum; Adriana Zavala, Associate Professor of Art History, Tufts University; and Minerva Cuevas, artist.
Gallery Talk by Charles Wylie, The Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art, DMA; Works on paper from DMA collection

Web Resources

  • Khan Academy
    Learn more about Mexican muralism and David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco.
  • Khan Academy
    Read more about Latin American art.
  • Khan Academy
    Learn about modernism from 1850 to 1960.
  • Khan Academy
    Read more about modernism and its legacy.
  • Khan Academy
    View a video about art and identity and explore how artists like Frida Kahlo, Glenn Ligon, and Andy Warhol investigate and express ideas about identity in their work.
  • Khan Academy
    Watch a video with Curator Chris Stephens as he explores art of the 1930s at the Tate.
  • Khan Academy
    Watch a video with Curator Chris Stephens he explores art of the 1940s at the Tate.
  • Khan Academy
    Watch a video with Curator Chris Stephens as he explores art of the 1950s at the Tate.