Jean Charlot

El primer diente, 1936

Oleo / tela
100 x 76 cm

El primer diente was painted in New York, where Charlot relocated in 1928 after working for several months as an illustrator on the Carnegie Institute of Washington’s ongoing archaeological project at Chichén Itzá. Like much of his work of the 1930s, the subject is a nostalgic recollection of scenes witnessed or imagined during the six exciting and artistically rich years he had spent in Mexico. The small picture shows a clearly upset mother holding her young baby in a gray-green rebozo; she reaches up from under the cloth to hold the squirming child. Rather than any specific individuals, the image depicts stylized composites. The mother’s face is an oval mask, reminiscent more of Greek tragedies than of anything from ancient Mexico. The mother’s costume, hairstyle and skin color type her as obviously indigenous, and though her baby has a paler face, Charlot has drawn the mouth with the snarl of an Olmec were-jaguar. As yet unmarried in 1936, Charlot had not yet faced the trying experience of his own children’s teething, but with the skills of a caricaturist, here he perfectly captures the awkward moment, as painful to the mother as to the baby. Charlot created numerous, sometimes overly sweet images of Mexican families –the father is almost always absent- in the period, showing mothers carrying their babies while they make tortillas (Rest and Work in Doorsill [Descanso y trabajo en el umbral], 1938), trying to maintain control (Mother Tying Child in Chair [Madre amarrando su hijo en una silla] (1942), and, of course, helping them to walk (Primeros pasos, 1939).

Vide James Oles, Arte moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México, 2005.

More of this artist

Francisco Díaz de León Fund