David Alfaro Siqueiros

Mexican , 1896 - 1974

David Alfaro Siqueiros was born in 1896 in Chihuahua City, Mexico. From 1908 to 1911 he studied at the Franco- English College in Mexico City. In 1911 he led a successful student strike designed to force changes in teaching methods at the San Carlos Academy (later the Academy of Fine Arts). In 1913, Siqueiros and some of his fellow students conspired to unseat Victoriano Huerta, after the overthrow and assassination of Madero. He joined the anti-Huerta Constitutionalist movement and began contributing to its newspaper, “La Vanguardia”. He served four years as an active combatant during the Revolution, attaining the rank of captain and, in 1918 he organized a group called the Congress of Soldier Artists.

Siqueiros traveled to Spain in 1919 and, in 1921 while in Barcelona, he published a magazine called, “Vida Americana”. He returned to Mexico in 1922 and painted his famous mural, “Los Mitos” at the National Preparatory School. He was elected secretary general of Mexico’s Revolutionary Painters, Sculptors and Engravers in 1923 and in the year that followed, Siqueiros, with Diego Rivera and Javier Guerrero, started a weekly called, “El Machete”. The publication later became the official organ of Mexico’s Communist Party.

In 1924 Siqueiros collaborated with Amado de la Cueva in woodcarving and mural work at the old Santo Tomás Church. From 1926 to 1930 he served as the secretary general of the Miners Union and of the Jalisco Workers Federation. His militancy saw him jailed several times and in 1932 he was expelled from Mexico. He went to Los Angeles, where he painted and exhibited. In 1934, as President Lázaro Cárdenas came to power in Mexico, Siqueiros was once again welcomed into his native country.

As the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Siqueiros went to Spain and enlisted in the antifascist forces, serving three years and rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1939, he returned to Mexico and under the sponsorship of the Electrical Worker’s Union, he produced one of his best- known murals, “Portrait of the Bourgeoisie”. A staunch Stalin supporter, Siqueiros led an unsuccessful attack on Trotsky’s house in Mexico City’s Coyoacán suburb in 1940. During WWII, the majority of his works depicted the struggle against fascism and other progressive themes. In 1947 he exhibited numerous paintings including, “El Coronelazo” at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico.

Ever politically involved, Siqueiros was jailed in 1959 for “social dissolution” and upon his release in 1964, he continued as a partisan of international Marxism. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1967. Though he was best known for his paintings and large, politically inspired murals, Siqueiros also completed a number of prints, including “Zapata”, “Hombre Atado #2” and “13 Grabados”, among others. During the final decade of his life, Siqueiros established a workshop in Cuernavaca and painted his huge mural, “The March of Humanity”, inaugurated in 1971, three years before his death.
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