Art Fund Acquires Rare Prints for British Museum: Mexican Revolutionary Posters to Appear in Exhibition in London

Art Fund Acquires Rare Prints for British Museum

On 28th August 2009 The Art Fund announced the gift to the British Museum of seventeen rare posters originating in Mexico.

The collection includes one of the most famous of all Mexican lithographs, Emiliano Zapata and his Horse (1932), by Diego Rivera (1886-1957). The prints will join the museum’s already comprehensive holding of approximately 50,000 drawings and more than two million prints dating from the early fifteenth Century to the present day.

The gift also features items by revolutionary Mexican artists including José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Alfredo Zalce, Leopoldo Mendez, Isidoro Ocampo and others. The items were created in Mexico and highlight Mexico’s turbulent history in the early 20th Century.

Revolution on Paper: Mexican Prints from 1910 – 1960

Revolution on Paper Mexican Prints

The collection will be on display as part of the British Museum’s forthcoming exhibition entitled Revolution on Paper: Mexican Prints from 1910-1960. The show, supported by the Mexico Tourist Board and The Monument Trust, will be the first European show to examine Mexican printmaking in the twentieth century. The exhibition continues the BM’s tradition of outstanding displays which includes Babylon Myth and Reality, Gardens and Cosmos – Royal Paintings of Jodhpur and Terracotta Army.

Mexico’s first revolution took place between 1910 and 1920. The left-wing government that came to power favoured art as a means of promoting the aims of the revolution. The walls of public buildings were covered with huge murals, many by Diego Rivera, and workshops were set up to produce prints for mass consumption.

‘Los Tres Grandes’

Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros were known as ‘los tres grandes’. The trio produced some of Mexico’s finest revolutionary art and helped established the Mexican Mural Renaissance.

  • Diego Rivera – Rivera was one of Mexico’s most famous artists active during the first half of the 20th Century. Following his move to Europe in 1907 he embraced cubism but only created fourteen prints. Most of these were published by the Weyhe Gallery in New York. In 1921 Diego returned to Mexico where he painted several monumental outdoor murals for the new socialist government’s public buildings and between 1930 and 1933 he decorated the walls of the California Stock Exchange and Detroit Institute of Arts.
  • José Clemente Orozco – The exhibition will also feature posters by José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), a painter who initially trained as an architect. Orozco, who also painted large murals, favoured scenes of human suffering or machinery. Orozco’s murals appeared in Mexico City, Guadalajara, as well as Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire).
  • David Alfaro Siqueiros – The third member of the trio, David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), is regarded as one of Mexico’s finest muralists. Siqueiros fought in the Mexican Revolutionary army and his work reflects the violence of the time.

Highlights of the Exhibition

Highlights of the Exhibition

The best-known lithograph from this period is Diego Rivera’s Emiliano Zapata and his Horse. The museum’s copy is one of a limited edition of 100. It was purchased, with an Art Fund grant of £25,061, from the publisher’s granddaughter and is in almost perfect condition, having never been framed. The print depicts the guerrilla leader Emiliano Zapata surrounded by peasant fighters.

Also on display will be Rivera’s Portrait of Frida Kahlo (to whom he was married), Siqueiros’ Dama Negra, and Orozco’s The Masses.

The exhibition will include prints, woodcut designs, lithographs and illustrated books by many other Mexican artists as well as earlier works, from before the turn of the century, by printmakers such as José Guadalupe Posada, whose dancing skeletons continue to enthral the public, look at more info.

The Art Fund the Aldama Foundation

The Aldama Foundation is a charitable organisation set up by two keen collectors. The Foundation has collected a wide range of illustrated books, prints and posters.

The Art Fund, an independent charity funded by public donations, is committed to saving art. The posters were presented by the Aldama Foundation via The Art Fund to the British Museum to guarantee their unity as a collection.

Revolution on Paper: Mexican Prints from 1910 – 1960

The exhibition will be open from 22nd October 2009 to 5th April 2010. During 2010/11 the show will tour three additional UK venues, details to be announced. The British Museum will be publishing a fully illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition.