Raúl Anguiano: A world in perpetual movement

By Beatriz Vidal *


Raúl Anguiano was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, on February 26th, 1915. He started drawing cubist pictures at the age of 5, taking as his first models movie stars, as Mary Pickford, Pola Negri and Charlie Chaplin. Anguiano recalls that his first artistic influence or aesthetic emotion came from the Holy Family by Rafael Sanzio.

At the age of 12, Anguiano attended Guadalajara's Free School of Painting under the tuition of Ixca Farias. From 1928 to 1933, he studied with the Master painter José Vizcarra, the disciple of Santiago Rebull and José Salomé Piña, and organised the group "Young Painters of Jalisco" with other artists. During this period, Anguiano worked with different kinds of models: workmen, employees and a few intellectuals like Pita Amor.

In 1934 Anguiano moved to Mexico City. He began teaching in primary schools and taught drawing and painting at La Esmeralda academy and the UNAM School of Art. Anguiano is member of the Mexican Artistic Renaissance movement which was started in the 1920's by the Mexican School of Art in which he belonged. This renaissance began with the San Carlos Academy movement -- among whose leaders were Ignacio Asúnsolo and Jose Clemente Orozco -- and which emerged out of the students’ and teachers’ discontent with the traditional paintings methods (academicism), and the close contact that the young artists had with the problems of Mexico and its people, explaining the marked critical realism to the painters of the time, including Anguiano himself.

The same year, Anguiano received a commission to paint his first mural, Socialist Education, a 70 meters fresco located at A. Carrillo School in Mexico City. Other works followed, including Mayan rituals (oils on canvas and wood), for the Mayan Hall in the National Museum of Anthropology, and Trilogy of Nationality (acrylic on canvas and wood), for the Attorney General’s Office.

In 1936 he moved into his surrealist period, which lasted almost a decade. He painted circus performers and prostitutes. The most notable among his works of the time are: The Madame (gouche, 1936), The Clown's Daughter (oil, 1940), the Pink circus artist and the Grey circus artist (oil, 1941). Also during this period, Anguiano produced a series of drawings based on his dreams, with cold tones and silver-greys predominating.

In 1937 Anguiano joined the Revolutionary Writers and Artists League. Together, with Alfredo Zalce and Pablo O'Higgins, he was also a founding member of the Popular Graphics Workshop, where artist practised a graphic style based on Mexico's folk traditions. This was due to the powerful influence of the recently discovered Jose Guadalupe Posada and Goya.

Raúl Anguiano belongs to the so-called "Third Generation" of post-revolutionary painters, along with Juan O'Gorman, Jorge González Camarena, José Chávez Morado, Alfredo Zalce, Jesús Guerrero Galván and Julio Castellanos, all known for being unorthodox, associated in politics and in art, while at the same time, holding to certain traditional canons. Anguiano's work is viewed as an expression of its time because of its undeniably Mexican flavour, and the link to his people is clear, not only in his murals but also on canvas, etchings, pencil and ink drawings, lithographs and illustrations, and also more recently in sculpture and ceramics. Without compromising his personality or ethnic roots, and at the same time not allowing them to limit him, Anguiano has vindicated and taken advantage of the principles of modern art, giving him a universal and transcending character of his boundary work.

Anguiano held his first solo exhibition, entitled "Raúl Anguiano and Máximo Pacheco" at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, in 1935; and in 1940 he took part in his first collective exhibition "Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art". These were followed by more than 100 shows in many countries as Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, United States, France, Italy, the former Soviet Union, Israel, Germany and Japan. His most recent exhibitions include the presentation of a series of four colour lithographs, held at the Hall of Graphic Arts SAGA 88, from 1989 to 1990, in Paris; and the retrospective look at Anguiano's work in graphics (1938-1940), held at the National Print Museum in Mexico City in 1990.

Since 1982, Anguiano has been full member of Mexico City's Academy of Arts, and since 1993, he has also been Creator Emeritus of National System to the Creators of Art.

*Update Mexico would like to thank Voices of Mexico for authorising the publication of the article above.