This work is sold with a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by Andrés Blaisten and dated 13 September 2011; to be included in the forthcoming Catálogo General on the artist being prepared by Fundación Andrés Blaisten under number 45-06.
María Izquierdo, one of the great painters of the modern era in Mexico, is perhaps best known today for her paintings of circus scenes. For Izquierdo, carpas, itinerant vaudevillian sideshow tents that traveled throughout Mexico, evoked rich memories from her childhood in San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco. Her enjoyment of the circus and other popular forms of entertainment never waned; as an adult she continued to frequent the shows and brought her children to the circus. According to her friend Lola Álvarez Bravo, "María was a very cheerful woman with a folk spirit. The inclination that María had for folklore was not that of a spectator; she seemed rather to be an insider, like one more folk element. Not only did she like circuses, she actually had lots of friends from the circus." Her interest in this popular form of entertainment reflected but one aspect of her genuine and deep-rooted interest in Mexican popular traditions.
Her first circus paintings date back to the early 1930s. Her involvement at that time with Rufino Tamayo and the progressive group Los Contemporáneos nurtured her desire to create art with both a national character and a sense of the universal. The circus --a popular, awe-inspiring, carnival-esque spectacle-- was an enticing subject for the avant-garde in post-revolutionary Mexico.
Izquierdo's "true passion for color," as she described it, is evident in the 1975 work Caballitos pony en su camerino. In this circus themed painting, the artist takes the viewer behind the scenes of the main event into the dressing room. A costumed female performer and two small horses adorned in colorful ornamentation await their entrance into the tent visible just outside the door. Horses frequently appeared in the artwork of Izquierdo as allegorical symbols and signifiers of the rural; she even painted toy figurines of horses from her personal collection.
The setting of the dressing room recalls other works painted by Izquierdo in the 1940s that explore issues of gender identity. In this decade, Izquierdo painted many domestic interiors that underscored the feminine domain, from niche shrines dedicated to the Mater Dolorosa to still-life tableaux of a middle-class woman's personal belongings. Through these paintings, Izquierdo celebrated a shared female experience while at the same time subverted assumptions about traditional gender roles. The circus performer and her vanity table, stocked with the tools needed to attend to her physical beauty and ready herself for the public gaze, similarly challenge perceived norms. The cultivated space of this dressing room belies the itinerant, decidedly un-domesticated life of the performer who uses it. The circus woman's role, which required physical agility, strength, and great daring, broke with the customary social mores of mid-century Mexico. As one of relatively few professional female painters in a male-dominated milieu, Izquierdo was no stranger to alternative feminine pursuits.
In 1945, a group exhibition of artwork and poetry related to the theme of the circus was mounted at the Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin in Mexico City. Twelve paintings by Izquierdo were included in the show, along with works by her recently wedded husband, the Chilean painter Raúl Uribe, as well as López Rey, Marín Bosqued and Roberto Guzmán Araujo. Promoting the exhibition, a photographic reproduction of Caballitos pony en su camerino appeared in the daily newspaper Novedades in July of 1945. The image reveals that the artist repainted her original version of the painting. She first conceived a more populated composition, which included a second female circus performer handling the horses and a third hat hanging on the rack on the wall. Izquierdo's editing of the canvas resulted in a less densely packed scene, lending the painting the quietude needed to set this space apart from the main spectacle.
Celeste Donovan, Ph.D.
1) Lola Álvarez Bravo, Recuento Fotográfico (México: Editorial Penélope, 1982), 104.
2) Adriana Zavala, Becoming Modern, Becoming Tradition: Women, Gender, and Representation in Mexican Art (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), 224.
3) A reproduction of the original composition as it appeared in Novedades is published in María Izquierdo (Mexico City: Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo, 1988), 342.
In modern Mexican painting, María Izquierdo has explored the circus theme with unparalleled grace and charm. Her initial work on this subject dates to the years between 1932 and 1934, and consists of watercolors she painted while still romantically involved with Rufino Tamayo--both of whom influenced each other during this period. Later during the 1940s, she produced a series of gouaches based on this theme. The compositions of these works are more complex and they are larger in scale than the preceding series. Finally, in 1945--one of the most prolific years in her career, Izquierdo executed a number of paintings where she returned yet again to her much beloved circus theme. These paintings reflect some of her most outstanding works on this subject.
The present painting from 1945, Caballitos pony en su camerino, is perhaps one of the artist's most elaborate approaches to this theme. Indeed even after its completion and exhibition, the artist felt the need to make some alterations. The first version surely felt overly worked, leading her to pare down some of the elements of the painting. In the first version there was another woman standing on the hind quarters of the pony to the left. Her faint presence is still visible just below the overpainting. The artist also eliminated a third hat hanging from the wall, and imbued the back wall with a greater sense of perspective. These revisions are not unusual in Izquierdo's work. We know she modified several of her canvases throughout her career, which reveals something about the self-critical spirit of this great artist.
The image of this painting, prior to its modification, appears in the catalogue María Izquierdo (México: Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, Fundación Televisa, 1988, 342, plate no. 150). The image was reprinted from a July 15, 1945 clipping from the newspaper Novedades.
Andrés Blaisten, Mexico City, September 2011