Ángel Zárraga

La poétesse, 1917

Oleo / tela
92.5 x 65.2 cm

This work is a splendid example of the experimentation with cubism with which Zárraga was occupied between 1915 and 1918. The identity of the model represented in portrait is unknown, however, the “large bust” format recreates her immersed in an atmosphere that is entirely appropriate to a poet: the chair and the table replete with both open and shut books, the sheet of paper, and the writing utensils form an environment sufficient to evoke the vocation with which she is associated.
There is a marked contrast between the material solidarity of the objects displayed in the foreground, which occupies the bottom tier of the composition, and the bluish evanescence of the feminine figure, which appears reduced to a silhouette of flat color, the contours of which are defined through the use of strong lines: the lines that define her arms curve inward, becoming as they move toward the body’s interior, the edges of the neckline of her dress. In spite of the severely frontal impression of the model, the strict symmetry is broken at the height of the head, in order to suggest the coquettish irregularity of the hairstyle or its arrangement. One perceives a certain dose of irony in the slightly caricatured line of the head, simplified to the greatest degree in a style linked to the universe of journalistic illustration of its period, and that provides an expressive contrast to the abstract and intellectualized display of the chromatic planes serving as a background, thus freeing the work from excessive solemnity. Not accidentally, there are predominant tones of blue or bluish gray in the upper part of the composition: one must not forget that blue symbolizes spirituality and poetry, for both the European symbolists and the Latin American modernists (one could think of Verlaine and Mallarmé in this regard as easily as Darío and Gutiérrez Nájera).

Ramírez, Fausto, et al. Mexican modern painting from the Andrés Blaisten Collection, Mexico: RM Verlag, 2011, page 42.

More of this artist

Francisco Díaz de León Fund