Manuel González Serrano

La orquídea, ca. 1945

Oleo / cartón
27 x 33 cm

This painting from the late 1940s shows greater stylistic and compositional complexity than his simpler still lifes of earlier in the decade, though here too, the objects are placed close to the foreground with no interest shown in the surrounding space. A creased sheet of white paper fills most of the composition. A wilted light pink orchid flops to the left; a chunk of green moss emerges to the right; and in the back are two ripe pomegranates, one of which has split to reveal the fleshy seeds. More shiny seeds are scattered across the paper, placed too neatly to have fallen there by accident. The orchid, a symbol of elegance, delicacy, perfection, and sexuality, also appears in Fertilization [Fecundación] (c. 1947-48; private collection), in which two blossoms appear to mate in a cave. One flower jettisons sperm-like seeds while the other, less "erect," bends to receive them. Both flowers are attached to green mossy branches, like that in The Orchid. In both classical and Christian iconography, the pomegranate represents fertility, as well as regeneration and even eternal life. For this reason, González Serrano shows the fruit bursting open, as he does in Pomegranates with Landscape [Granadas con paisaje] (c. 1946-47; Biblioteca de Arte Ricardo Pérez Escamilla). The piece of paper, like an unfolded origami sculpture, is more enigmatic, though it also appears in other paintings, including the 1949 portrait of Salazar Mallén, and may simply provide an angular contrast to the fleshy natural forms upon it. Careful analysis indicates that the artist imagined the folds rather than duplicating what he observed.

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

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