Francisco Corzas (1936-1983)
Francisco Corzas (1936-1983)

Desnudo de espalda

Francisco Corzas (1936-1983)
Desnudo de espalda
signed and dated 'Francisco Corzas, 72' (lower right)
oil on canvas
67 ¼ x 47 ½ in. (170.8 x 120.7 cm.)
Painted in 1972.
Merle Oberón y Bruno Pagliai​ collection, Mexico City.
Galería Enrique Guerrero, Mexico City.
Private collection, Mexico City.
Francisco Corzas, Mexico City, Bital Grupo Financiero, 2001, p. 149 (illustrated in color) and p. 188 (illustrated).
Mexico City, Sala Nacional del Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Francisco Corzas, 1962-1972, 29 June-15 September 1972.
Pontevedra, Spain, Museo de Pontevedra, Rupturas. La liberación de la imagen: El arte en México después de 1950, August-September 2001, p.118 (illustrated in color). This exhibition also traveled to Valencia, Museo de Arte Moderno, October-November 2001, p.136 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Writing in 1970 in the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Young Mexican Painters at the Center for Inter-American Relations, art historian Jacqueline Barnitz stated that “the drama in Corzas’ unsettling and melancholic world comes from the painting itself and not the subject,” a sentiment that rings true in relation to the multitude of nudes that became the staple of his mature work.[1] Art historian Shifra M. Goldman added in 1977 that Francisco Corzas’s “nudes, while sensuous, do not convey a healthy eroticism like those of Titian or, in a less idealized way, Rembrandt.”[2] A sense of disquietude, loneliness, and solitude that permeates Corzas oeuvre, and that is usually reserved to describe his paintings of carnival figures, the trashumantes or circus wanderers, and other nomadic and marginalized figures, equally pertains to his nudes inspired by Italian painting from Giorgione to Modigliani.

At first glance Desnudo de espalda evokes the timeless tradition of depicting the sensual nude, focusing the viewer’s gaze on the female figure’s fleshy posterior and corporeal fecundity. The bouncy curls of her thick long hair caress her shoulder and stream down her back while echoing her curvaceous form and the white sheet that ripples at her front. She turns her head ever so slightly, revealing just the barest indication of her left cheek; she remains an enigmatic and elusive figure. Depicted against a stark and desolate background of earth tones that bring out the hues of her auburn hair and the pinks of her peachy flesh, she is isolated in a sea of expressive and almost aggressive brushstrokes that reflect modern anxieties. Corzas plays with the trope of the nude by destabilizing the spatial relations of this painting. At once the nude fills the composition and stands erect and centralized; however, her lower half, which Corzas depicts in a slanted manner, reinforced by the diagonal movement of the fabric, makes it appear as if she is teetering, and as though she is on the verge of falling over. Moreover, the overall flatness of the painting and lack of recession into space compresses figure/ground relations. Shading between her legs, smeared patches of color that also hint at violent expression and bodily distortion and mutilation, flatten and conjoin her legs rather than delineate form or create volume. Tilted up to the picture plane in the manner of a modernist nude by Picasso, the figure also appears to be lying down instead of standing.

The pictorial (and psychological and emotional) instabilities conveyed by this painting derived from the social themes of his early work. His paintings of the 1960s had placed him squarely within the young generation of painters known as La Ruptura, and more specifically as one of the younger artists associated with Los Interioristas and Nueva Presencia—groups that challenged the abstraction of other ruptura artists, whom they deemed removed from local realities. Nueva Presencia instead proposed a new mode of figuration rooted in the social, but inflected with a sense of midcentury subjectivities, interiorities, and angsts that challenged the realisms of The Mexican School. Despite the break from social realism and the figuration of Mexican modernism, Corzas and his generation remained indebted to figures such as José Clemente Orozco, specifically his “angry humanism,” early imagery of prostitutes, and aggressive expressionism. In addition, “Tamayo’s isolated and anxious subjects of the 1950s and 1960s” remained a touchstone.[3]

Born into a working-class family in Mexico City, Corzas studied at La Esmeralda (Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes) between 1951-1955 where his teachers were Agustín Lazo, Carlos Orozco Romero, Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, María Izquierdo, and Juan Soriano. Between 1956 and 1959 he lived in Rome where he studied the nude at the Academy of Fine Arts and fresco at the Academy of San Giacomo, yet also suffered from his poor living conditions. His time in Italy enabled him to study first-hand masterpieces of Italian art that would leave a lasting mark on his style—his “sensuous brushwork,” and “luminous chiaroscuro.”[4] Moreover, the post-neo-realist films circulating at that time by Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, and Michelangelo Antonioni served to signal the tragic frailty of the human condition that he would take up and develop in the service of a revamped new figuration when he returned to Mexico to play an active role in a new generation of painters.[5]

Anna Indych-López, Associate Professor of Latin American Art History, The City College of New York and The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

1Jacqueline Barnitz, Young Mexicans: Corzas, Gironella, López-Loza, Rojo, Toledo (New York: Center for Inter-American Relations, 1970), 8. Foreword by Stanton Loomis Catlin. Exhibition dates: October 22, 1970 – January 3, 1971.
2 Shifra M. Goldman, Contemporary Mexican Painting in a Time of Change (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1981; originally published 1977), 125.
3 James Oles, Art and Architecture in Mexico (London: Thames & Hudson, 2013), 341.
4 Goldman, Contemporary Mexican Painting in a Time of Change, 121.
5 Ibid.

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