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André Salmon introduces Lola Cueto’s work by referring to certain moments that he considers important. He suggests that Edouard Manet’s painting, La Muerte de Maximiliano [The Death of Maximilian], was Mexico’s debut in the visual arts. According to Salmon, Téodore Rousseau, “the customs agent,” was also instrumental in introducing Mexico to the Parisian art world; he was a military musician during the invasion to Mexico (1861-67) and fell in love with the country’s jungles and exotic nature, which he later portrayed in his painting. Salmon also questions the woefully elementary knowledge of Mexico among Montmartre intellectuals, based on an incident involving Guillaume Apollinaire in Picasso’s studio. Given the abundant misinformation circulating in Paris at that time, Salmon expresses his thanks to his friends, the Mexican poets who send him official avant-garde publications. He explains that artists who studied and learned art in Montparnasse were the illustrators of those publications: Diego Rivera and Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, among others. As regards Lola Cueto’s work, the French writer appreciates the pictorial vision of an artist who uses a sewing machine instead of a brush to paint works that were hitherto unimaginable. Salmon describes her as a fine craftswoman who has blended traditional and national themes, and woven together aristocratic and folk art concepts, calling her “a great decorator, unencumbered by any of what modern art detests.” He admires her work and acknowledges the thoughtful, pure (honest) quality of her tapestries. In fact, Cueto abandons her direct transcription of Rousseau’s work in order to create an allegory combining flags with mountain lions crowned with corn.
André Salmon (1881–1969) was a French poet and art critic, a close friend of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), and Max Jacob (1876–1944), with whom he founded the magazine Le festin d’Esope [Aesop’s Feast]. He is known to some extent for having helped Picasso name his painting Les demoiselles d’Avignon [The Young Ladies of Avignon]. This review was published in a Spanish translation in El Universal Ilustrado, but Salmon originally wrote it in French as the prologue for the exhibition Des tapisseries mexicaines de Lola Velaszquez Cueto [sic] [The Mexican Tapestries of Lola Velásquez Cueto] in Paris, Salle de la Renaissence, February 6–19, 1929. An incomplete version of this same essay was published in the French newspaper La Comédie on Tuesday, February 12, 1929. (With regard to the Spanish version of the review, see doc. no. 800967.) This review is important because it documents the close relationship between members of the European avant-garde and many other trends and opinions, such as those of the Latin Americans. In this case, Lola [Velázquez] Cueto (1897–1978) created tapestries based on forms drawn from the pre-Hispanic world, clearly influenced by nationalist themes, as well as on reinterpretations of stained glass windows at the cathedral at Chartres in France. Her work also included references to paintings by Diego Rivera (1886–1957), Téodore Rousseau (1887–1910), and Jean Charlot (1898–1979), which defined her less as a “copyist” and more as a re-interpreter of the works of these artists, using a technique that was almost exclusively hers. Salmon also wrote and signed—but did not date—a letter to Lola Cueto in which he expressed his admiration and profound respect for her work. It is significant that a critic of his stature, who was such a staunch defender of Cubism, should have acknowledged Lola’s tapestries and praised the honesty and simplicity of an artist who was so committed to her time and her country.