9 Famous Mexican Artists
Did you know Mexico has a rich artistic community and modern art history rivaling anywhere in the world? While you may think of Mexico more for its bold and beautiful jewelry, traditional and eclectic fashion, or delicious food, it’s tradition of artistic brilliance is one of its most influential exports.
Read on to meet some of the most influential artists from Mexico’s recent history.
Few individuals in Mexican history encapsulate what it means to be a Mexican artist more than Frida Kahlo.
Integrating traditional Mexican motifs such as nature and historical Mexican artifacts, Kahlo’s work is revered across the world. Though not a prolific artists with fewer than 150 works in 47 years, her folk art has been a influencing force on Mexican culture.
Kahlo suffered through 2 traumatic health incidents as a child — contracting polio at age 6 and suffering a lifelong injury in a severe bus accident in her teenage years. These incidents left an imprint on her work and were the reason she started painting (when recovering in the hospital she started and finished her first self portrait). Kahlo’s work was also heavily affected by her turbulent marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera.
Kahlo will be remembered for her striking self portraits such as Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird and the Two Fridas.
The big 3
3 of the most famous painters in Mexican history sprung out of the post-Mexican revolution movement to reunify the country. “The big 3,” as they are referred to, spread this message of social and political change to help reunify the country. All 3 were muralist, which leant itself to the grand, and at times radical, political messages they were helping spread.
Jose Clemente Orozco
With an emphasis on human suffering, Jose Clemente Orozco’s murals were less focused on realism than they were getting across an emotion.
Much like his contemporaries, his work was often commissioned by the post-revolution government to help spread the message of reunification. Eventually falling out of favor with the Mexican government, Orozco moved to the United States where he continued his work before eventually triumphantly returning to Mexico.
Orozco was not a fan of European traditions, artistic or otherwise, and sought to destroy them in his expressionist work. He leaves a legacy of socialist values and advocating for the plight of the suffering man in his murals.
David Alfaro Siqueiros
A noted Stalinist, David Alfaro Siqueiros hailed from a family of poets, actors, and musicians. This integration of artfulness helped his artistic roots grow, even after his mother died at age 2.
Siqueiros murals were of man’s daily struggle. He also portrayed revolutionaries and explored ideas and themes from the Mexican Civil War and Spanish Civil War.
His passion for political life and radical messages forced him to have to often paint in jail due to his beliefs. Siqueiros was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1966. His most prized pieces can all be found in Palacio del Gobierno in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The less influential but still important husband of the legendary Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera rounded out the big 3 and is one of the most famous artists in the world. He is even featured along with Frida Kahlo on the Mexican $500 bill.
Joining the post-impressionist movement in 1917, Rivera’s murals are noted for the portrayal of revolutionary themes, namely the peasants, natives, and mestizos, or mixed race Mexicans.
Despite also being a communist, Rivera was commissioned far more than any of his 3 companions (or his wife), which is the reason he’s gained additional notoriety over the years. You can now see his work around the world, including at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City.
While Mexico City may have the country’s largest galleries and is a global art hub, the city of Oaxaca in Central Mexico is where the soul of the Mexican art community lies. Visiting today will bring you to a city filled to the brim with interesting galleries and coffee shops charmingly loitered by talented working artists. This cultural mecca was built into a globally renowned art city due to the work of 3 generational artists.
Famous for his figurative abstract style, Tamayo was known for going against the political trends of his contemporaries, forcing him to abandon his own country and relocate to the United States. Nonetheless, his modern and surrealistic painting were influential and unmistakably virtuosic even at the time.
Tapayo’s work often depicted traditional Mexico through limited but bold coloring. He embraced major movements of his day, such as Cubism, Impressionism, and Fauvism. He is also a noted graphic artist, developing pieces with the use of wood cuts, etchings, and his own genre of art called Mixografia, which rendered 3D texture to prints.
An Oaxacan native, Morales was a long time art teacher before his work was discovered during his first exhibit by Rufino Tamayo. This discovery led to critics and art lovers around the world showing interest in his work.
Morales’ work was known for its use of surrealism and bright colors in canvases and collages. His dreamy paintings often featured Mexican women in traditional villages and memories, evoking nostalgia. His work pulled deeply from local myths.
As time went on, Morales became interested in architecture and helping restore historical buildings, particularly in Oaxaca.
Born in Pittsburgh, PA in the United States, Toledo was born to a Mexican father and American mother. Still an active figure on Oaxacan cultural circles, Toledo’s graphic artworks are essential to the fabric of the city and Mexico’s artistic culture.
Much like the other 2 Oaxacan artists discussed, Toledo was a surrealist at heart and often played with pre-hispanic motifs. He was a noted painter and sculptor, living in Paris in the 60s and developing a style unto his own.
Mexico’s most famous impressionist painter, Joaquín Clausell was influenced by Claude Monet to move into painting. Trained as a lawyer and a journalist by trade, Clausell is today one of Mexico’s most influential painters.
Joaquín distinguishes himself through the use of the Mexican landscape and seascapes through the unique perspective he explores. He is credited as one of the first artists to bring expressionism to Mexico.
WIlliam Spratling is the single greatest influence of 20th-century silver jewelry. American born, Spratling moved to Taxco, Mexico to develop the city’s already developed silver jewelry tradition.
His work was primarily informed by pre-Columbian artistic work and featured many classic Mexican motifs. Often referred to as the “Father of Mexican SIlver,” Spratling started a trend in Taxco that has continued today. Quality, artful silver jewelry informed by the rich history of Mexican artists.
Own a piece of Mexican artistry today
Shop our collection of Mexican jewelry today to participate in the rich culture of Mexico on the daily.