María Izquierdo

Alegoría de la libertad, 1937

Acuarela /papel
21 x 26.5 cm

Izquierdo's Alegoría de la libertad was painted in 1937, likely soon after Alegoría del trabajo (Blaisten collection). In this mysterious image, a chimney exuding thick black smoke generates a fantastic and apocalyptic creature: liberty, a white winged being, carries a golden torch in one hand, and in the other barbarically clutches the severed heads of five women by their long black hair. Liberty flies heavenward with her war trophies into a dark night sky past a crescent moon, while surrounded by the same rays of golden fire that appear in Alegoría del trabajo and in other paintings by Izquierdo from this time. The imagery of Alegoría de la libertad ironically undermines the painting's noble title, as the standard allegorical figure of winged liberty carrying a torch here is actually the bearer and perhaps the perpetrator of violent death. The painting may also ironically comment on the sacrifices deemed necessary for liberty. The decapitated women are the victims of powers beyond their control, and a sacrificial quality is evident in the image. The clutched heads allude to images of ritual sacrifice in prehispanic art, where warriors grab their their kneeling victims by the hair. Izquierdo’s nationalism was based upon a strong indigenism, and she regularly stated that indigenous culture of the past and present was the foundation of modern Mexican art. However, unlike the work of many painters in Mexico of the time, Izquierdo avoided using pre-Columbian motifs in an overt style nor did she create images of exotic indígenas. In Alegoría de la libertad the smoking chimney locates the scene within contemporary urban life, and Izquierdo uses an allegorised violence with traces of the indigenous past to underscore the problematic status of women in Mexico in the 1930s.

Terri Geis, Arte Moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005.

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