Mexican Muralists

            Widely considered as the greatest muralist in the America in 1930’s, Diego Rivera’s works captivate its audience because of its stylistic and political models or masterpieces which also influence mural tradition during his time. Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry, North Wall” in particular is a thought-provoking masterpiece that deals on ordinary lives or common people. Diego Rivera was able to capture the simple community of workers, particularly in Detroit, from a Marxist ideological perspective. This mural signifies the dignity and power of the workers or black slaves. It is a public image that instantly strikes its audience because of its scale or size and because it is instantly seen from the distance. Looking at the characters or models, an animated frieze can be observed. A geometric system can also be observed to articulate the flat wall plane that is emphasized by the mural. The mural can be divided into two equal halves, where the lower part is crowded with models, generally showing receding colors (dominantly blue). The upper part or half is composed of symbolic images of hands and rocks. Advancing colors (red and yellow) are dominant in the upper half, and some parts are black to emphasize the other colors.

            Diego Rivera also painted the “Muchacha Con Girasoles”, translated as “Girl with Sunflowers” which is a literal depiction of the title. Just like “Detroit Industry, North Wall”, this painting of Diego Rivera created using oil on canvas, also shows hard work or labor. The girl can be observed delicately placing sunflowers on the vase. In this particular painting, the sizes and locations of the sunflowers also create a movement. Diego Rivera again used receding and advancing colors which adds to the illusion of movement or space. The painting is dominated by primary colors blue, red and yellow. The sunflowers are yellow; the vase, girl and the seeds of the sunflowers is a mixture of brown and red; and the background is blue with streaks of white. It can be observed that the sunflowers and the girl are emphasized by the advancing colors and the background moves back.

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            Another Mexican muralist, specializing in bold murals is Jose Clemente Orozco. Jose Clemente Orozco is considered to be one of the pioneers of “Mexican Mural Renaissance”, together with Diego Rivera. Jose Clemente’s most striking mural is “Gods of the Modern World”, a masterpiece that depicts the return of Quetzalcoatl with thought-provoking skeletal models and theme. Symbolisms for fetish worship regarding dead knowledge are shown in this mural. The mural also shows a graduate student delicately delivers the knowledge that he obtained from different American and European universities (symbolized by skeleton models wearing different academic costumes) to his parent who is resting in bulky tomes. The skeleton models wearing different academic costumes are the ones depicted as “gods of the modern world”. The dominant colors used are black, white, red and blue. The tomes and five academic costumes are black; the parent and the tomes where he is resting are white; one academic costume is blue; and another academic costume, as well as the background is red. The background also includes shades or brush strokes of yellow, orange and white which forms a striking flame, suggesting that the world is being burned. The advancing and receding colors tend to create a flat plane, however, the position of the models or objects create space or distance. All in all, it can be said that this mural is Jose Clemente Orozco’s protest against intellectual bondage.

            Another mural by Jose Clemente Orozco that follows his series of “Quetzalcoatl’s Return” is the “Modern Human Sacrifice”. This mural can be considered the climax of his murals, tying up several themes. As the title suggests, it represents the sacrifice of humans for the sake of the modern god of war. This mural can be said to be Jose Clemente Orozco’s protest against nationalistic and political bondage, including the hypocrisy of using an “unknown soldier” to symbolize or represent nationalism which results to more sacrifices. A mixture of colors is used in this mural that vibrantly attracts the attention of its audience. Again, size and position of objects create illusions of space or movement.


Orozco, J. C.   Retrieved May 30, 2008, from

Orozco, J. C. Modern Human Sacrifice (Panel 18).   Retrieved May 30, 2008, from

Rivera, D. Detroit Industry, North Wall.   Retrieved May 30, 2008, from

Rivera, D. Muchacha Con Girasoles.   Retrieved May 30, 2008, from



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