Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Painting of the Week: Miguel Covarrubias, The Mexican Street Scene

Miguel Covarrubias the Mexican street scene
Miguel Covarrubias, The Mexican street scene, 1935, oil on masonite, private collection. Source: Sotheby’s. Detail.

Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week: Miguel Covarrubias, The Mexican Street Scene

An ordinary, rather empty street in the Mexican countryside. Two people. In the center, a woman with closed eyes, covered by a blue shawl. Pensive. Motionless. Behind her, a man heading towards us. Miguel Covarrubias draws us to the blue of the woman’s shawl and her posture, rather than to him. Why? And, perhaps more importantly, how?

Miguel Covarrubias
Miguel Covarrubias, The Mexican Street Scene, 1935, oil on masonite, private collection. Source: Sotheby’s.

The woman depicted here is indigenous; on her shoulders and head there is a rebozo. A rebozo is a long straight piece of cloth. Traditionally it is hand-woven. It can be highly decorative and colorful or plain and ordinary. Nowadays it is worn by any woman in Mexico, regardless of her socio-economical status, but it was to be a rather simple garment worn by the impoverished.

Miguel Covarrubias
Miguel Covarrubias, The Mexican Street Scene, 1935, oil on masonite, private collection. Source: Sotheby’s, detail.

The blue chosen by Covarrubias makes us think about all the Madonnas, by Giotto, da Vinci, Duccio, Raphael and Fra Angelico, that we know from art history. Blue, especially lapis lazuli shade, used to be reserved for divine, pure, not from this world, heavenly subjects. So the woman here is like the Virgin Mary: She transcends the scene. She must be adored and looked at.

Miguel Covarrubias, The Mexican Street Scene, 1935, Oil on Masonite, private collection. Source: Sotheby’s, detail.

The man in the corner wears white cloths and a big hat. His figure reminds us of the murals of Orozco and Rivera. He is dynamic, he moves towards us, he is the force that pushes towards the future. He is a zapatista, a revolutionary soldier, bringing new order.

Miguel Covarrubias
José Clemente Orozco, Zapatistas, 1931, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.

Miguel Covarrubias was a multifaceted humanist. He is most famous for his artwork and celebrity caricatures in Vogue, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, his depiction of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as his drawings and studies of indigenous cultures of southern Mexico and Bali. The paintings are rare works in his artistic vocabulary. The Mexican Street Scene has in its simplicity and composition, as well as in the choice of colors, a depth that not many works possess.


This painting brings two people from the marginalized class into the spotlight and lends them historic meaning. Covarrubias makes us look at those who just before the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) were invisible.

Ex political science researcher at the Jagiellonian University. Lover and promoter of Latin American art and design (via blog www.thebananas.pl). In spare time president of the board of FOH Foundation, non profit, pro publico bono organization whose mission is to further safety and professional standards in the entertainment productions industry.

 

Comments

More in Painting of the Week

  • Ferrante Imperato, Room of curiosities. Source: www.wunderkammer.at Ferrante Imperato, Room of curiosities. Source: www.wunderkammer.at

    Animals

    What is a Wunderkammer? Best Cabinets of Curiosities

    By

    The characteristic of arousing surprise for the observer is typical for the so-called Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities. These are real rooms of wonders where, in an undifferentiated mix of art and science, of naturalia and artificialia, the most unusual finds are associated with all sorts...

  • Animals

    Dachshunds in Art

    By

    Dachshunds were first bred around the 15th century in Germany. Their primary purpose was to hunt small animals, particularly badgers, and they are sometimes referred to as badger hounds. Although most dachshunds now probably live a more sedentary lifestyle, this extremely intelligent and incredibly stubborn dog...

  • 19th Century

    Painting of the Week: Thomas Lawrence, Julia, Lady Peel

    By

    When I saw the portrait of Julia, Lady Peel by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the Frick Collection, I was intrigued by the artwork. There is a discrepancy between her gentle expression and the flamboyance of her costume. Yet she is both confident and charming. Is she an actress, a...

  • dailyart

    Mona Lisa at the Battlefield: the History of Saving Art During World War II

    By

    During walks through the halls of museums, few people think about how these art masterpieces were not always in their place. In turbulent war years, art, like the civilian population, had to be evacuated. How was that even possible at the world’s most terrifying time? Let’s...

  • 20th century

    Max Ernst and Birds: A Relationship Explained Through Paintings

    By

    Max Ernst (1891–1976) was a prolific German avant-garde artist. He was a pioneer in the early 20th century movements of Dada and Surrealism and developed a number of inventive artistic techniques. Ernst had the ability to make the unbelievable believable through his art. For this reason,...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy