Agustín Lazo (1898-1971)
Agustín Lazo (1898-1971)

Marina (also known as Las pescadoras)

Agustín Lazo (1898-1971)
Marina (also known as Las pescadoras)
signed 'Lazo' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 28 ¼ in. (65 x 71.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1937.
Rafael L. Partida, Guadalajara, Jalisco (acquired from the artist in 1953).
Galería Lourdes Chumacero Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City.
Lance Aaron Family collection, San Antonio.
O. Debroise, Figuras en el trópico, plástica mexicana 1920-1940, Barcelona, Océano, 1983, p.136 (illustrated).
J. García Ponce and L.M. Schneider, Agustín Lazo, Mexico City, Casa de Bolsa Cremi, S.A., 1988 p. 48 (illustrated).
Amigos de bellas artes, Year X, Num. 4, August-September 2005, p. 6 (illustrated in color).
M. Fernández, “Agustín Lazo, surrealista y cosmopolita”, Revista Escala, Aeroméxico, Núm. 196, November 2005, p 34 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Antonieta Rivas Mercado, Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, G.M. Editores / Espejo de Obsidina Ediciones, 2008, p. 161, no. 11 (illustrated in color).
J. Oles, Agustín Lazo, Colección Blaisten, Centro Cultural Tlatelolco, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2009, p. 151, no. 79 (illustrated in color).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, May-September 1940, p. 165, No. 128 (illustrated).
Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, De artesanos y arlequines: Forjando una colección de arte mexicano, July 2005-April 2006, p. 52 (illustrated in color).
Austin, Mexic-Arte Museum, From Revolution to Renaissance, Mexican Art from the Aaron Collection, April 2007–January 2008.
San Antonio, Museo Alameda Smithsonian, Revolution & Renaissance, Mexico & San Antonio, 1910 –2010, November 2010–August 2012.

Lot Essay

A painstaking, meticulous draftsman whose ouevre comprised no more than 150 works on paper and canvas, Agustín Lazo (1896—1971) was recognized by art critic Teresa del Conde, among other scholars, as “one of the artists who inaugurated modern Mexican art.”[1] Lazo did so by embracing European modernism and omitting overt signs of the national in his artwork. Enrolled in the Academy of San Carlos in 1917, Lazo was a student in Saturnino Herrán’s life drawing class. A pioneering artist of modernismo, Herrán synthesized the stylistic approach and themes of symbolism and art nouveau, combined with local, indigenist content. So too would Lazo channel a path of artistic synthesis, rather than advocating for “La ruta única” (The Only Way), the route of socially committed, large-scale public art advocated by the Mexican Muralists. Lazo would also avoid indigenismo (a focus on the Indian of the past and contemporary present as a subject-matter that would define art of the Revolution), to further an open cosmopolitanism in the arts, actively forming part of the Grupo sin grupo (Group Without a Group), those artists such as Rufino Tamayo, Julio Castellanos, and Manuel Rodríguez Lozano who were aligned with the inheritors of literary modernismo, writers and poets including José Gorostiza, Salvador Novo, Jorge Cuesta, Carlos Pellicer, and Lazo’s intimate friend Xavier Villaurrutia, who altogether produced the journal, Los Contemporáneos (The Contemporaries, 1928-31).[2] Living abroad for extended periods of time in the 1920s, Lazo developed his signature painting style, which combined neo-Impressionist brushwork, Picassian classicism, surrealistic dream imagery, and Metaphysical lessons as represented by Marina (Seascape) of 1937.

Lazo was born in Mexico City into an aristocratic family; his father was a lawyer, his uncle an architect, and his mother an Andalid, from a wealthy landowning family who held pulque-producing haciendas in Hidalgo and Mexico City (the Goicochea hacienda dating back to the 17th Century, now the San Angel Inn).[3] As there was no gallery system in Mexico City prior to the opening of the Galería de Arte Mexicano in 1940, Lazo, like many of his peers in the early 1920s, participated in the Pro-Mexican Art Movement as an educator in primary schools where he imparted Adolfo Best Maugard’s drawing method, a universal system inspired in popular and ancient art intended to generate a new national art. While Lazo, like Tamayo and Castellanos, dabbled in the Best Method, he soon abandoned the approach and any overt Mexican content in his art as he searched for a personal style. Lazo first traveled to Europe for six months in 1925, where he enjoyed an exhibition in Rome of Metaphysical painters Carlos Carrá and Giorgio de Chirico, and Futurist Umberto Boccioni,[4] shared a studio with Alfonso Michel in Paris, and was mentored by Max Jacob.

During a second extended stay in Europe from 1927-31, Lazo kept a studio in Montparnasse, studied at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumière, and formed part of the Paris vanguard circles. Back in Mexico, during the mid-to-late 1930s Lazo created enigmatic drawings using a prominent crosshatching technique, collages constructed from 19th century journal illustrations—a medium uncommon to Mexico at the time, and allegorical paintings including Marina. He also produced set designs, costumes, and wrote plays for the experimental theatre, Teatro Orientación, work that Lazo wholly dedicated himself to during the 1940s. The artist infused his dream-like, theatrical scenes with the disquietude and mystery of Metaphysical painting and surrealist absurdity; his figures in unexpected and unexplained situations set in empty, interior spaces, or against walls or arcades in deep perspective recalled René Magritte, De Chirico, and Max Ernst. Lazo was, in the words of art historian Justino Fernández, a maker of “lyrical, poetic, imaginative, refined, and delicious” art.[5] So too did Lazo remain an anti-muralist, rejecting the dominant visual language of epic official nationalism. Lazo instead stood for “arte puro” (pure art) or “art for art’s sake,” committed to working on a small, intimate scale, producing art free of any political content or social concerns.

Marina offers a perfect summary of Lazo’s mature syncretic aesthetic in which he flaunts his appreciation for the European avant-garde. Four female figures wearing white shifts surround a pool fed by the distant aqueduct, a universal motif that points to Rome as easily as colonial Morelia, Michoacán. The women in the foreground catch fish, while impossibly a miniaturized cargo ship floats in the center of the canvas. Art Historian James Oles suggests that Lazo’s allegorical painting likely represents Water, the women embodying natural forces; he names Parto de los montes (Birth of the Mountains), a no longer extant sister piece to Marina, as an allegory for Earth.[6] Even while evoking visions of De Chirico—sculptures of Greek goddesses juxtaposed against arcades—and clearly echoing Picasso’s Three Women at the Spring of 1921 in composition and the classicized treatment of form, Lazo energizes his scene with the divisionist brushwork and theatricality common to his paintings of this period.

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

1 Teresa del Conde, Historia mínima del arte mexicano en el siglo XX (Mexico City: Attame Ediciones, 1994), 70.
2 For more on the Grupo sin grupo see Olivier Debroise, “Los límites de la mirada,” in Figuras en el tropico: Plástica mexicana 1920-1940 (Barcelona: Ediciones Océano, 1984), 117-150. Interestingly, Marina is here published as Las pescadoras (The Fisherwomen), illustrated on p. 136.
3 See James Oles, “Agustín Lazo: The Ashes Remain” in Agustín Lazo (Mexico City: UNAM, 2009), 17.
4 Ibid., 27.
5 Justino Fernández, “Agustín Lazo” in Arte moderno y contemporáneo de México, Tomo II (Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 1994), 104-105. Author’s translation.
6 For a black and white reproduction of Parto de los montes (Birth of the Mountains) see Oles, “Agustín Lazo,” 148.

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