Mexican Painters in Obscurity: Untold Stories of Artistic Talent

Have you ever heard about María Izquierdo?

What about Saturnino Herrán and Jesús de la Helguera?

If your answers were no but you are really into Mexican art or art in general, you should read this article!

In the unknown, there's a lot of incredible art waiting for us to find. Let's uncover these amazing tales about this forgotten Mexican painters and their extraordinary talents together.


Below, I share with you some painters who were forgotten. However, they come back to life through this article. I would like to clarify that apart from writing about travel and destinations in Mexico, I am very passionate about art. It is never too late to be an expert in something you like, right?

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It has been a while since I wanted to write about these Mexican painters overshadowed by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera figures. So when asked if you like Mexican art, don’t just answer that you know Frida Kahlo. Grab your brush, prepare your paints, and let’s start this adventure full of colors, tradition, and lots of Mexican culture!

Intro: Exploring the Unheralded Artistry of Mexican Painters

Mexico is famous for its lively art world, which has artists known all over the globe. But some fantastic Mexican painters are not getting as much attention as others. We’ll discover the incredible worlds of María Izquierdo, Aurora Reyes, Cordelia Urueta, Saturnino Herrán, and Jesús de la Helguera. These artists might not be famous, but they’ve done amazing things in the art world.

muralismo mexicano
“Attack on rural teachers” mural by Aurora Reyes. Centro Escolar Revolucion, Mexico City, 1936.

María Izquierdo: The Pioneering Visionary

The incredible painter María Izquierdo was born on December 30, 1902, in San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, Mexico. She was associated with the Mexican artistic movement known as the Mexican Renaissance or Mexican Muralism, which emerged after the Mexican Revolution.

A blend of traditional Mexican folk art and modernist elements characterized her artistic style. Izquierdo’s paintings often depicted everyday scenes, indigenous people, still lifes, and symbolic elements rooted in Mexican culture. She employed powerful colors, strong forms, and a mix of surrealism and symbolism in her works, contributing to the development of modern Mexican art.

The popularity of this painter was overshadowed by an accident she had. Something kind of similar to Frida Kahlo. As time went by, Frida’s works attracted more and more public attention due to the heartbreaking stories captured in her works. It was impressive that Frida reached fame, to the point of taking his story to Hollywood.

mexican painters
October 28th: Day in which those who died in an accident or those who died a sudden or violent death are honored.

Nevertheless, María Izquierdo, according to the writer Elena Poniatowska, surpasses Frida and is even ‘more Mexican’, “because she is not folkloric, but essential”. Many people in Guadalajara and other parts of Mexico consider that María Izquierdo was better than Frida Kahlo both artistically and socially. However, both were essential pillars in giving voice and more visibility to social issues related to contemporary feminism.

María Izquierdo was a pioneering female painter often overlooked in art discussions. Her artistic journey broke barriers in Mexico’s male-dominated art scene. Her vivid and striking works captured the essence of Mexican life, portraying culture, folklore, and everyday stories on canvas. Izquierdo’s artistic legacy remains an inspiration to many aspiring Mexican painters today.

Aurora Reyes: The Voice of Women

Aurora Reyes was born on April 27, 1908, in Chihuahua, Mexico. She was associated with the Mexican artistic movement known as Mexican Muralism or Mexican Renaissance, which emerged after the Mexican Revolution. Reyes was known for her social realist style of art. Through her paintings, she pioneered advocacy for women’s rights and social justice.

This great woman was a friend of Frida Kahlo’s childhood; they attended the same high school together. Aurora even painted a picture of Frida called Portrait of Frida in front of the mirror. However, this woman was also totally overshadowed by the work of Diego Rivera and other famous muralists like Orozco and Siqueiros.

female mexican artists
Woman of War by Aurora Reyes Flores, 1937

Aurora Reyes fought for artists to get fair pay during her life. She had to teach to earn enough money. In an interview with the newspaper Extra, she shared her feelings about the little help mural artists received from the government.

She was upset because only the famous muralists, such as Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, received support, not the new artists. You can learn more about her thoughts in the “Behind the Scaffolding” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Chapultepec Forest.

Aurora Reyes was an amazing artist who used her paintings to support women’s rights and fairness. She painted colorful pictures that showed the challenges and successes of women in Mexico. Her art encouraged women and made the art world more fair and welcoming for everyone.

Cordelia Urueta: The Surrealist Dreamer

The amazing Cordelia Urueta was born in Mexico City, Mexico. She wasn’t part of a specific Mexican Movement, but for some people, she was a surrealist painter who ventured into imaginative realms through her art.

Additionally, she was part of the Mexican art scene and was associated with the Mexican School of Painting. At first, she painted portraits but later focused on colors and textures in her artworks. She believed colors best expressed her feelings.

Her paintings became more abstract over time but still had hints of human figures inspired by Tamayo. People call her the “Great Lady of Abstract Art.” Her fantastical, poetic, and dreamlike paintings reflected a unique perspective, blending reality with the surreal.

Urueta’s contributions to the surrealist movement in Mexico added an intriguing dimension to the country’s art landscape. She was a woman ahead of her time, full of magic in her brushes, just like Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington.

Saturnino Herrán: The Cultural Chronicler

Saturnino Herrán was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He was associated with the Mexican muralism movement, and his artistic style leaned towards depicting realistic scenes of Mexican life, traditions, and indigenous culture. Herrán’s art often authentically and deeply portrayed everyday life in Mexico, contributing significantly to Mexican art history.

His journey in the world of art began when he enrolled at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City at just 11 years old. Under the guidance of influential artists such as José María Velasco and José Clemente Orozco, Herrán honed his skills, paving the way for his artistic development.

artistic movement (muralism)
Labor (Saturnino Herrán) at the Museum of Aguascalientes

Despite his promising career, Saturnino Herrán’s life was tragically brief. He passed away at the young age of 33 due to pneumonia. However, his artistic legacy continued to grow posthumously. His paintings received recognition both within Mexico and internationally, contributing to the appreciation of his talent and preserving Mexico’s cultural heritage.

Saturnino Herrán painted pictures that showed Mexico’s culture. His artworks had scenes of Mexican life, traditions, and indigenous culture. He cared about keeping Mexican culture alive through his art, which significantly impacted Mexican art.

Jesús de la Helguera: The Muralist’s Storyteller

Jesús Helguera was born on May 28, 1910, in Chihuahua, Mexico. He was known for his art style, a part of the Mexican modernist movement. His paintings reflected Mexico’s culture and identity.

Helguera’s artwork featured scenes from Mexican history, folk culture, and myths. He often painted indigenous and mestizo women in traditional clothes, showcasing Mexico’s pride and culture. His paintings were bright and detailed and romanticized Mexico’s past, which people in Mexico loved. Though he started in architecture, Helguera switched completely to art due to his love for painting and drawing.

He became famous for his unique style, making illustrations for calendars, books, and magazines. His drawings helped spread Mexican culture, both in Mexico and in other countries.

His paintings were well-loved because they felt nostalgic and sentimental. They made him really famous in the history of Mexican art. Helguera’s artwork was essential in keeping Mexico’s culture alive, showing the heart and soul of Mexico through his amazing paintings.

Jesús de la Helguera narrated tales of Mexico’s history and folklore through his art. His illustrations, often featuring indigenous themes and folklore, became iconic representations of Mexican culture. De la Helguera’s artistry brought Mexico’s history and legends to life, captivating audiences with its richness.

Conclusion: Discovering the Forgotten Strokes

The paintings by María Izquierdo, Aurora Reyes, Cordelia Urueta, Saturnino Herrán, and Jesús de la Helguera are essential to Mexico’s art and social justice history. These Mexican painters are powerful proof of the talent of great Mexican artists in painting and social commitment.

Even if many people don’t know them well, their art has made a significant impact. Not well-known by many, these artists should get more attention for their unique role in Mexico’s colorful art world. By highlighting these lesser-known Mexican artists, we can find inspiration to learn more and value the rich variety of Mexico’s art scene.

Informative Video

Mexican painters: Some of María Izquierdo’s paintings

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