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In this document, Margarita Nieto details the influence of the School of Mexican Painting on the artistic production in the United States during the twenty-year period preceding World War II. She argues that contact between the two countries during this time was instrumental in setting a precedent for the establishment of and funding for later United States art projects. Nieto points to the integral impact of Mexican muralists and others on the increase in awareness of and appreciation for Mexican art in the United States, citing several projects that helped put these artists on the map, so to speak. Nieto argues that the embrace of Mexico during this period marked a shift away from previous decades in which there was widespread bigotry and disdain for Mexicans in the United States. She identifies and discusses at length two main reasons for this shift, the first was the work of artist, art historian, and critic Walter Pach, and the second was the increased experimentation on the part of American intelligentsia. Nieto details several examples of early exhibitions of Mexican art in the United States, and notes important contributions by the so-called Tres Grandes (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros), as well as Rufino Tamayo, Miguel Covarrubias, Frida Kahlo, and others.


Margarita Nieto is an art historian and professor at California State University, Northridge. She has written extensively on Mexican art and its influences on art of the United States, especially in Los Angeles, California. Nieto is one of the earliest American art historians to delve into the study of the impact of Mexican art and artists on mainstream American art and its institutions. This essay was published in Latin American Art magazine, which dedicated the entire issue to the “Arts of Mexico.” It is noteworthy that it is the only article that discusses the artistic connections between the United States and Mexico, even from an early period (1920s and ‘30s), as well as the political contradictions implicit in the establishment of the United States border patrol in 1924 and subsequently, the Mexican repatriation that took place from 1929 and 1933.

Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Courtesy of the private archives of Margarita Nieto, Ph. D. Los Angeles, CA