Rosa Rolanda

Niña de la muñeca, 1943

Oleo / tela
65 x 50 cm

A photograph of Rosa Rolanda captures the artist at work on the oil painting Niña de la muñeca in her home in Tizapán. She sits at her easel surrounded by a large collection of prehispanic sculptures, which she and her husband avidly collected, along with folk art. Rolanda was originally from California, of Scottish and Mexican descent, but as the photo and Niña de la muñeca demonstrate, she ascribed fully to the ideals of lo mexicano in her adopted country. Niña de la muñeca depicts a little girl sitting in an equipal. She wears a light pink dress with a matching bow in her hair, and does not smile, but gazes out solemnly as she tightly clutches a doll dressed as a tehuana. At her feet is another toy—perhaps from Rolanda's own collection—a clay or plaster sculpture of man on horseback, playing a guitar. In this painting, Rolanda closely follows a theme and style developed by Diego Rivera in images such as Modesta (1937, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection) in which young, often indigenous children with wide, almond-shaped eyes and thickly rounded bodies –and often holding toys- are celebrated as the purest embodiment of the Mexican nation. While the sincerity of this sentiment should not be contested, such images were highly popular among collectors in the United States. Unlike Rivera, however, Rolanda does not appear to have considered herself a professional artist, once stating, "I paint for pleasure. I don't exhibit in galleries. People who see my paintings in my house and like them buy them directly from me". However, discerning collectors like Stanley Marcus and Fred Davis did acquire her work. Niña de la muñeca also pays tribute to Rolanda's good friend Frida Kahlo, as the girl's tehuana doll bears Kahlo's iconic, thickly joined eyebrows. The humorous "portrait" is especially clever in that Kahlo also had a large collection of dolls, and the painting interestingly prefigures the Kahlo "cult" that has led to the proliferation of her likeness on mugs, shirts, posters, and indeed dolls.

Vide Terri Geis, Arte moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México, 2005.

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