María Izquierdo

Autorretrato, 1947

óleo/ tela

María Izquierdo produced some of her most memorable images in 1947, including at least two self-portraits. In this example, the figure is placed unusually low; Izquierdo often composed her portraits, whether of herself or of her sitters, so that the figure almost fills the entire frame. The position here gives greater prominence to the streaked blue and grey of the cloudy background. Yellow and ochre tones in the dress and face complement the range of blue tones in the sky, giving greater intensity to the hues. As Izquierdo noted in her "Credo artístico": "poseo una verdadera pasión por el color; es lo que más siento y lo que más me emociona de todas las cosas que existen." This austere painting is closely related to the nightmare scene in Sueño y presentimiento (1947; private collection), in which, in an uncanny doubling, the artist leans out of an empty window embrasure holding her own head by the hair. Although Sueño y presentimiento may not strictly speaking be a self-portrait, the expression of the artist in both paintings and her hairstyle with the distinctive yellow ribbons is similar. Unlike her other self-portrait of 1947 (Club de Industriales), a repainted version of a canvas originally done in 1939, this image is more austere: there are no necklace adornments and earrings, and she wears an extremely simple golden brown robe, which lacks collar or trimmings. The absence of decoration matches the rest of the painting, like the featureless landscape and gloomy sky. Self-portraits play an unusually dominant role in twentieth century Mexican painting, which would seem a counter trend to the muralist emphasis on public education and national history. Artists have long used the genre of self-portrait as a mode of self-examination and expression but in Mexico its capacity as the vehicle for the imagination and the construction of identity gave it a new life. Curator Fernando Gamboa –a fellow student of María Izquierdo's at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in 1928- recognized this when he organized 45 autorretratos de pintores mexicanos in 1947 at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, in which Izquierdo participated. The historical dimension of the exhibition was also important for Izquierdo, who had a special interest in 19th century Mexican painting and whose portraits and self-portraits often acknowledge the strong personality of predecessors like José María Estrada.

Dawn Ades, Arte Moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005.

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