Oleo / tela
152 x 94 cm MI003
Retrato de Belem was exhibited at Maria Izquierdo’s first solo show in November1929, at the Galería de Arte Moderno in the Teatro Nacional (now the Palacio de Bellas Artes) run by Carlos Orozco Romero and Carlos Mérida. Diego Rivera, then Director of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (renamed the Escuela Central de Artes Plasticas), where Izquierdo had been studying the previous year, contributed the preface to the exhibition. Rivera wrote with insight about the "serenidad valiente con que escribe en modo acerbo el carácter de sus retratos". This early portrait of her half-sister is a premonition of the strongly marked sculptural character of later portraits and self-portraits. Izquierdo was not unwilling to be identified with "antique (Aztec) sculpture" and often impressed a similarly chiselled appearance on the sitters in her portraits. The lovingly and delightfully detailed treatment of the objects in Retrato de Belem, as well as the figure of the girl, contrast with the simplified treatment of space. The vase of flowers, blotter and lacquered gourd rattle from Olinalá, Guerrero (a discrete reference to the colourful folk art that Izquierdo collected) are carefully modelled but cast no shadows on the white cloth; neither the lines of the floorboard nor the top of the chest recede according to the laws of perspective and the left side of the chest permits a view of the floor beyond while its top appears to project beyond the edge of the canvas. The elegant simplicity in this apparently naïve composition suggests a familiarity with contemporary French painting. Indeed, an exhibition held earlier in 1929 at the Escuela de Bellas Artes, included work by Derain, Matisse, Gleizes, Cézanne, Picasso and Vlaminck. Though Izqueirdo may here be responding to cubism, the clarity of line and the uninhibited juxtaposition of flat and modelled forms suggests that it was Matisse who had particularly interested her. Like all serious artists she had a capacity to absorb and reinvent. Retrato de Belem already attests to her individual artistic voice.