María Izquierdo

Caracoles, 1939

Oleo / tela
50 x 70 cm

This sensual yet understated still life demonstrates why many writers described María Izquierdo as the most poetic Mexican painter of her time. Izquierdo uses a limited palette and a thick, expressive application of paint to make a close investigation of the textures, shapes and colours of four large conch shells, contrasting their rough, spiralling exteriors with their smooth, pink interiors. The brightly toned shells rest on a deep brown tile floor, and an open avocado, short length of sugar cane and glass jar provide a contrasting border. Caracoles moves beyond an exploration of the tactile and visual qualities of the shells, for while they are placed against the hard floor, the shells evoke the beach or even a seabed through their seemingly natural rather than arranged composition. In addition, like a shell pressed to the ear, they invoke the sound of the sea. Izquierdo collected shells and regularly painted them, as in her later naturaleza viva paintings from 1946. Shells also feature prominently in paintings by González Serrano from the same period, such as Veleros y peces (c. 1947, Blaisten collection). Pablo Neruda later described Izquierdo’s life-like yet timeless conches as the shells "de las supersticiones". As in a number of Neruda's poems, Caracoles, with its emphasis on fleshy pink forms, creates an analogy between shells and the female body. A similar analogy of femininity is made in a portrait Izquierdo painted of her friend María Asúnsolo (1942, Museo Nacional de Arte) in which a large shell rests on a tile floor by Asúnsolo's feet. Caracoles was included in Izquierdo's April 1939 exhibition of still lifes and portraits at Ines Amor's influential Galería de Arte Mexicano, a major event in Izquierdo's career.

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

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