National Museum of Women in the Arts
María Izquierdo
October 30 1902 - December 03 1955
Photograph of María Izquierdo, ca. 1938, by Lola Alvarez Bravo, courtesy of María Izquierdo Archive, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico. (c) Aurora Posadas
Place of Birth:
San Juan de los Lagos
Phonetic Spelling:
mah-REE-ah ees-kee-AIR-doh
Work Type/Media:
Artistic Role(s):
Landscape Painter, Oil Painter, Painter, Portraitist, Still life Painter, Watercolorist
Artist's Biography:
Although her reputation has been overshadowed by Frida Kahlo’s, María Izquierdo was a Mexican painter most well known for her vibrant paintings inspired by Mexican folklore and motifs. Born in 1902, she relocated from a small, conservative, rural village to bustling Mexico City with her family in 1923. City life gave Izquierdo the opportunity to explore the bohemian and artistic circles of post-revolution Mexico. She painted at home and eventually became a student at the prominent Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1928. Her work came to be praised by renowned Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo, with whom she shared a studio until 1933. As she gained international recognition, she became the first Mexican woman to have a one-person exhibition in the United States which was held in New York in 1930.

Lead by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco, the Mexican art oeuvre of the early 1900s consisted of social realist murals depicting the social, political and cultural values of the Revolution. Both Izquierdo and Tamayo, however, shared the desire to create a more universal language—a less male-dominated, propagandistic avant-garde style. Izquierdo developed her own artistic path by choosing spontaneity over painterly refinement. Her mature paintings are ripe with saturated primary colors. Working in oils, watercolors, and gouache, the artist drew upon themes of Mexico’s traditional culture, especially the circus, popular arts, and rural landscapes. Her portraits and self-portraits often incorporated figures in regional dress, while her still lifes display hand-crafted objects used in popular ritual and devotion. Many of her later works include barren, ominous landscapes reminiscent of Surrealist dream worlds.

In 1944, Izquerido received a federal commission for a large-scale cycle of murals on a prominent public edifice. Although the project was never realized, penetrating the male-dominated circle that dominated Mexican art was a landmark achievement. Izquierdo was known throughout her life not only as a painter, but as a writer of articles on art, feminism, and political activism.

Other Occupation(s):
Activist, Art Critic, Feminist, Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
Mexico City
Where Trained/Schools:
Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico (1928-1929)
Related Visual Artists:
student of Alfonso Garduño student of Germán Gedovius student and partner of Rufino Tamayo student of Diego Rivera friend of Lola Alvarez Bravo
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Arts Center Gallery, New York, New York, USA (1930)
Earliest exhibition:
Galería de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico (1929)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Latin American Women Artists, 1915-1995
Artist retrospective(s):
The True Poetry: The Art of María Izquierdo, Americas Society Art Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1997) María Izquierdo: 1902-1955, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago, IL, USA (1996) Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, Mexico (1989)
Related places
Mexico City (died at)