We are grateful to Irene Herner for her assistance in cataloguing this work.
While Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros is most known for his politically and socially themed murals, he produced numerous easel works throughout his career. By 1957 Siqueiros was lauded internationally once again; having received second place after Henri Matisse at the 1950 Venice Biennale for his easel paintings. Siqueiros approached his paintings, which he regularly called portable murals or plastic exercises, with the same revolutionary zeal as his murals.
From the early 1930s, Siqueiros sought to modernize art by experimenting with industrial materials and tools. Much of Siqueiros's easel work was made with non-traditional materials such as pyroxylin or Duco paint, a lacquer developed by the DuPont Company often used in car manufacturing. Pyroxylin, used here, is bright, durable, fast-drying, and easily applied with an airbrush or traditional brush. Siqueiros combined these materials with a masonite support, which attracted him "because of its low cost, ease of preparation, durability, and receptiveness to pyroxylin." Pyroxylin allowed for a build-up of layers lending a sculptural appearance to his painting. Coupled with tight composition and monumental scale, the two heads or Dos cabezas seem to emerge from the frame.
The composition of the painting is immense in scale. The heads of the two campesino-like figures occupy the majority of the space and are intimately positioned. The main figure with short wavy black hair smiles broadly as does the second figure that rests his head on the other's shoulder. Each figure with their mouths half open in an almost laugh-like expression look upward and outside the masonite canvas. Short dynamic strokes produce the modeling of the facial features and spur the viewer's eye to move and circle around the faces, as do the looser broad strokes of the background and clothing. The layer upon layer of color enhances the play of light and shadow and adds to the depth of the textured surface.
The light tone and levity of the scene is rare in Siqueiros's work and seemingly apolitical. However the depiction of the two heads of working men is in keeping with his artistic ideology to generate art that speaks to the average person, to represent the heroic voice of the common man as a "dialectical, aggressive, menacing, and tremendously optimistic voice."
Rebecca Zamora, independent researcher
1 Christopher Fulton, Siqueiros: Landscape Painter (Mexico: Editorial RM, 2010): 73, fn 6.
2 As quoted in Irene Herner de Larrea's Siqueiros from Paradise to Utopia (Mexico City: Maporrua, 2010): 138.
This painting is part of the National Heritage of Mexico and cannot be removed from that country. Accordingly, it is offered for sale in New York from the catalogue and will not be available in New York. Delivery of the painting will be made in Mexico in compliance with local requirements. Prospective buyers may contact Christie's representatives in Mexico for an appointment to view the work.