David Alfaro Siqueiros - ‘Cosmos and Disaster’ c.1936
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Revolutionary artist and activist, David Alfaro Siqueiros is one of the major Mexican painters of the first half of the twentieth century. With Diego Rivera (1886-1957) and José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), he was one of the leading muralists, whose public works were part of the paternalistic programme initiated by the Mexican government in the 1920s. The results were, in varying degrees, deliberately propagandising. By melding Renaissance and indigenous traditions the muralists created an imagery that formed the basis for a new national self-awareness in Mexico. This shared impetus, however, could not disguise political divergence between the artists that reached a critical point in a series of acrimonious public debates between the Trotskyist Rivera and the Stalinist Siqueiros in August 1935. Beyond a personal rivalry, the contention around a proletarian, as opposed to a popular, art had echoes around the world, as left-leaning artists sought a way to reconcile modernism and political action in the face of the rising tide of Fascism.