María Izquierdo (Mexican 1902-1955)
María Izquierdo (Mexican 1902-1955)

Mujer ante el espejo

María Izquierdo (Mexican 1902-1955)
Mujer ante el espejo
signed and dated 'M Izquierdo, 34' (lower right)
gouache on paper
8 1/8 x 10¾ in. (20.6 x 27.3 cm.)
Executed in 1934.
Leopoldo Villareal collection.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Mary-Anne Martin/Fine Art, New York.
Acquired from the above.
Exhibition catalogue, The True Poetry: The Art of María Izquierdo, New York, Americas Society, 1997, no. 12 (illustrated in color).
L-M. Lozano, María Izquierdo: Una verdadera pasión por el color, Mexico City, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2002, p. 87 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art in association with Editorial Turner de México, SA de CV, 2006, p. 216, fig. 110 (illustrated in color).
A. Zavala, Un arte nuevo: El aporte de María Izquierdo, Monterrey, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2008, p. 25, fig. 8 (illustrated in color).
New York, Americas Society Art Gallery, The True Poetry: The Art of María Izquierdo, 6 May-27 July 1997, no. 12. This exhibition also travelled to Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 27 September- 28 December 1997; Corpus Christi, Art Museum of South Texas, 13 January-8 March 1998.
Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted, 17 February-27 May 2007, pl. 30. This exhibition also travelled to Miami, Miami Art Museum, 22 June-16 September 2007; Mexico City, Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, 26 October 2007-21 January 2008.
New York, El Museo del Barrio, Nexus New York: Latin/American Artists in the Modern Metropolis, 17 October 2009-28 February 2010.
San Antonio, Museo Alameda Smithsonian, Revolution and Renaissance: Mexico and San Antonio, 1910-2010, November 2010-August 2012.

Lot Essay

Mexican modernist María Izquierdo's Mujer ante el espejo of 1934 belongs to a series in her artistic trajectory considered by scholars such as Elizabeth Ferrer, Luis Martín Lozano, and Adriana Zavala, to be, respectively, the most "poignant," "absolutely original," and "a singular contribution to Mexican art."[1] Throughout the 1930s and contemporaneous with her more joyful circus scenes, Izquierdo produced this extensive body of watercolors, oils, and gouaches focused on the female nude; many are allegories in which women trapped in desolate landscapes, their wrists bound with rope, interact dramatically with each other, horses and lions, mermaids and sparse classical architectural elements. Izquierdo's imagery in these small paintings is mythological, intuitive, surreal, and decidedly feminist. Mujer con espejo belongs to these dream-like, metaphysical explorations.

Octavio Paz rightly described Izquierdo as a "self-made woman."[2] Born in 1902 in the provincial village of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco and placed into an arranged marriage at fourteen, she relocated with her husband to Mexico City in 1923 during the immediate post-Revolution "Mexican Renaissance." By 1928 she abandoned her marriage, and now a single mother to three small children, chose to pursue a career as an artist briefly enrolling in the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes; there she met Rufino Tamayo with whom she built a personal and professional relationship, one of artistic exchange. They shared a studio together until 1933, when Tamayo abruptly and painfully broke off his relationship with her to marry another.

Izquierdo was by then an emerging artist with a growing local and international presence; individual exhibitions of her work were presented in Mexico City at the Galería de Arte Moderno in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in 1929 and at Frances Toor's gallery in 1933. She could further claim the honor of being the first Mexican woman given an individual exhibition in New York City where fourteen watercolors hung in Frances Flynn Paine's The Art Center in 1930;[3] at the time numerous intellectuals such as Los contemporáneos' José and Celestino Gorostiza, Carlos Pellicer, and Xavier Villarrutia were publishing poetic, effusive discussions about her art. Soon she would draw the attention of French Surrealist poet Antonin Artaud who would further champion her work.

Contributing within this series to the artist's general critique of the female condition, Mujer ante el espejo even more specifically, as Zavala points out, challenges the kind of male objectification of the female body [4] evident in a work such as Tamayo's Nude in Red of 1930 where Izquiedo, portrayed not as an artist in her own right, but as muse, crouches outdoors, her face a dazed and unseeing mask of uncertainty, as she desperately tries to cover her nakedness with a length of white fabric, her full breasts frontally exposed to the viewer. By contrast, Izquierdo's nude female in Mujer ante el espejo turns her back on the viewer, denying and negating his attempts at voyerism. Her self-contained body nestled in a white cloth, black hair flowing loosely down her back, the woman effortlessly lifts up, not a handheld compact, but a noticeably large (and likely heavy) rectangular mirror that reflects the blue sky and clouds overhead. Setting up a clear juxtaposition between the solitary, free woman and the equally weighted immobile, inanimate, armless and headless female mannequin, here Izquierdo offers one of her many attempts to visually articulate feminist concerns as expressed in her often quoted statement, "It's a crime to be born a woman, [but] it's an even greater crime to be a woman and to have talent."[5]

Teresa Eckmann, Assistant Professor of Contemporary Latin American Art History, University of Texas, San Antonio

1 Elizabeth Ferrer, "A Singular Path: The Artistic Development of María Izquierdo," in The True Poetry: The Art of María Izquierdo (New York: Americas Society, 1997), 15; Luis Martín Lozano, "María Izquierdo: una verdadera pasión por el color," in María Izquierdo: una verdadera pasin por el color, (Mexico City: CONACULTA, 2002), 27; Adriana Zavala, "El sueño de ser pintora/The Dream of Being a Painter" in Un Arte Nuevo: El aporte de María Izquierdo/A New Art: The Contribution of María Izquierdo (Mexico City: UNAM, 2008), 25. 2 Octavio Paz, "María Izquierdo, Seen in Her Surroundings and Set in Her Proper Place" in Essays on Mexican Art, Trans. Helen Lane (New York, San Diego, London: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1993), 261.
3 See Sylvia Navarette, "María Izquierdo" in María Izquierdo (Mexico City: Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, 1988), 61-71.
4 Adriana Zavala, 24-27.
5 María Izquierdo unpublished memoirs held in the Aurora Posadas Izquierdo Archive, quoted by Olivier Debroise in "The Shared Studio: María Izquierdo and Rufino Tamayo," in The True Poetry: The Art of María Izquierdo (New York: Americas Society, 1997), 52.

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