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In this essay, North American critic and art collector MacKinley Helm analyzes the work of those artists whose style and content did not fit into muralism or the so-called “Mexican School of Painting.” Helm discusses, in the context of the 1920s and 1930s, the evolution of Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kahlo, María Izquierdo, Antonio Ruiz and Francisco Goitia œuvre. The author highlights the originality of this type of painting and refutes the notion that these artists should be judged “not Mexican,” since the images they produce indicate just the opposite.


Written in 1941, this book by MacKinley Helm (1896) made the Mexican muralist movement and those artists that were active in the 1920s and 1930s accessible to a broader audience. As a critic and art collector, Helm followed the development of his favorite artists. Such was the case of David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974); one of his works, which inspired Helm’s trip to Mexico, illustrates the cover of the latter’s book. Helm had two objectives: on the one hand to conduct the research for his book and, on the other, to finish the curatorial study he was doing on the work of Siqueiros for the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. His book would become one of the first books in English on the Mexican movement; it appeared a year after the big Mexican exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York entitled Veinte siglos de arte mexicano [Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art]. The chapter of the book that is reproduced here contrasts the work of Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) with that of Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and María Izquierdo (1902-55).   A recent edition of this book was published in 1989 by Dover, under the title Modern Mexican Painters: Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros and other Artists of the Social Realist School.

Alejandro Ugalde
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Biblioteca Justino Fernández del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México