María Izquierdo

El baile del oso I, 1940

Gouache / papel
40.5 x 57.5 cm

El Baile de Oso is one of a group of brightly coloured circus-themed watercolours and gouaches that Izquierdo painted in January of 1940. This particular example is unusual in that it depicts a street performance rather than the circus tent scenes, such as El domador/i> (Blaisten collection), that the artist regularly painted. As can be seen from the photographs taken in the period by Nacho López and others, such itinerant performers regularly appeared on the streets of Mexico City in these years, and children and adults alike would stop to watch their performances. In Izquierdo's scene, which appears to be in an urban park, a bear dances on its hind legs while a man in a gypsy headscarf beats on a tambourine and a kneeling woman plays the flute. A strolling family looks on in excitement. A street vendor facing off in another direction holds a multi-coloured selection of balloons. The painting is exuberant in its contrast of vibrant pink, red and yellow against brown surroundings and leafless tree trunks. Izquierdo's use of a purposefully naive perspective creates the sensation that the performing figures are floating above the child who clasps his hand on his head in wonder, allowing the viewer of the painting to examine the magic of the scene as if from a child's eyes. At the same time, the painting evokes an absurd and not entirely happy ambience. The cruelty of turning a noble, wild beast into a humorous spectacle is underscored in the bear's lumbering, ridiculous steps, outstretched arms and muzzled face. Izquierdo thus masterfully describes both the joyous and the seedy qualities of her performers, although the tone of the painting is more sympathetic than critical. Many of Izquierdo's circus images were included in her exhibition at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in 1943. Justino Fernandez, writing on this exhibition, praised the humour of Izquierdo's circus scenes, and proclaimed that Izquierdo was the first important female painter to emerge in Mexico.

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

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