The Mexican model and novelist Guadalupe Marín Preciado was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the birthplace also of Juan Soriano. Diego Rivera's second wife and later the companion of the poet and chemist Jorge Cuesta, she played a prominent role in twentieth-century Latin American culture. The relationship between Lupe (the short form of Guadalupe) and Juan Soriano was one of love and hate. The artist said that:
...she was the only woman I have ever known who is capable of being always honest, and even when she lies she has never been afraid to show it. Free will is her law, and beauty her gift. I have seen her transform her anger into beauty. She is ferocious, sumptuous, original She is a great civilizer. Wherever she goes, what lies concealed trembles with fear: she divines it and points it out.
Between 1960 and 1962 Juan Soriano devoted himself entirely to doing portraits of his Lupe. With a touch of both the maternal and the divine, he made her his obsession, producing more than a hundred drawings of her, all of them studies for larger-format works.
Soriano met Rivera's wife at the Café Paris in the heart of Mexico City, a place where the modernist movement of the Contemporáneos held sway. As Héctor Palhares has written: "Juan's palette and the hurried movement of Lupe would leave a series of icons in twentieth-century Mexican art", including these two magnificent works that formed part of the American collection of Frank and Jayne Fernández; Mr. Fernández was the Kodak Company's representative in Mexico.
The two paintings were sold at the same time by Soriano himself in the mid-1960s. Exhibited in the Misrachi gallery, they attracted the attention of Frank Fernández. They have not been displayed since in any public showing.
Soriano explores abstraction in both works. "First comes the nude body, which is gradually clothed. Layer by layer, almost like an onion, from the inside out," explained Juan. Elsie McPhail has suggested that, rather than immortalize the figure of Marín, Soriano portrayed himself. A juxtaposition of personalities in which both express their sexual freedom and color is the means of reaching the essence.
In Lupe No. X, (see Day Session, lot 154) the hands resemble wings, whereas in Lupe No. V (the present lot) they are codified and transfigured. Shades of red predominate in the former painting, as in the crimson lips, evoking the blood of the pre-Hispanic cultures in a period when the indigenous past was being given new meaning by the avant-garde movements from which Soriano learned in his Paris studio. The latter painting, full of Soriano's characteristic yellows, is perhaps one of best versions of Guadalupe Marín, very similar to the portrait belonging to the collector Andrés Blaisten and to the one in the Club de Industriales, both in Mexico City.
In these works the archaeological jewels worn by Lupe have been rendered as geometrical lines. With her large feet and hands, the flamboyant Lupe also posed for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
Muse and friend, confidante and fetish figure, Lupe Marín represents the Eternal Feminine in all its veritable stature. In the words of Jaime Moreno Villarreal:
He lets her come and go, convulsive and tremulous like himself, ungraspable. He puts her in the center and releases the painting, which escapes from the hands of both. The series of portraits of Lupe Marín, from 1961, constitute the tunnel and the light and the light at the end of the tunnel.
These emblematic canvases in the production of the Mexican master embrace the words of the Thousand-Year-Old Child, as Octavio Paz called Juan Soriano:
Since everything is forgotten, one becomes anxious that the work will be lost. This is the sense of portraits: memory. Though we must not forget what Lupe Marín always used to say,'They don't look like me. Juan painted me very ugly...'
Alfonso Miranda Márquez, Director, Soumaya Museum, Mexico City.