David Alfaro Siqueiros - Photo of the artist, 1944 - Image via pinterestcom

David Alfaro Siqueiros

Mexico 1896 - 1974

Painting, Murals

David Alfaro Siqueiros
David Alfaro Siqueiros
January 27, 2017
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

An extremely prominent figure that emerged from the Mexican school of great mural painters, David Alfaro Siqueiros was an artist whose incredible depictions leave him standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. The focal point of this artist’s paintings and murals was usually the feature of social and political subjects. Stylistically, David Alfaro Siqueiros was heavily influenced by the visuals of Francisco Goya, all kinds of religious art and dynamics of Italian Futurism. By combining the features of all his inspirations, the author was able to use powerful perspective, monumental forms, tense shadows and a restrained color palette to their finest dramatical limits. It should also be noted that, in addition to painting, Siqueiros was also an enthusiastic political activist with a turbulent personal history full of strikes, protests, jail time and even exile[1].

Modern mural works from Orozco, Mexico, deserve a page of their own
David Alfaro Siqueiros – The Mexican Revolution – Image via bp.com

Blending Art and Politics

David Alfaro Siqueiros was born on the 29th of December in the year of 1896, in Chihuahua City, the capital of the northwestern Mexican state of Chihuahua. He was a son of a bourgeois family, a circumstance that allowed young David many commodities and options whilst he was growing up. In 1908, he went to Mexico City in order to study visual arts and architecture at the Franco-English College. The education segment of his life was timed quite interestingly as this was a tumultuous period of Mexican history. In 1910, the famed Mexican Revolution erupted and the aspiring Siqueiros decided he would like to be a part of the struggle. He started to be involved with student strikes and was even one of the leading figures behind a few of these protests. For example, David was one of the organizers behind the successful strike that changed the teaching methods at the San Carlos Academy[2]. When he turned 18, Siqueiros joined the Mexican Revolution Army where he eventually attained the rank of captain. David was also a member of the Communist Party where the main goal was to undermine Mexico’s new military dictator, Victoriano Huerta, and all the characteristics of his regime. During all this time of struggles and turbulent circumstances, David Alfaro Siqueiros saw artistic expression as something that blended seamlessly together with politics. He would paint murals, applying what he learned at the Franco-English collage[3]. These huge and bold murals were often infused with causes that supported his leftist politics and the author literally declined any commission that did not have these norms in mind. While still a part of the Mexican Revolution Army, the young man co-founded a group called the Congress of Soldier Artists.

Right from the very start of his career, David Alfaro Siqueiros made it clear that he is not willing to accept any commission or artistic assignment that goes against any aspect of his personal ideology

David Alfaro Siqueiros - Self Portrait Works, Mexico, 1945 - Image via New York Page
David Alfaro Siqueiros – Self Portrait, 1945 – Image via wikiart.org

Staying True to Left-winged Ideas

David teamed up with the aforementioned Diego Rivera on several assignments. Rivera was as well a hard-core leftist, so the two got along famously. The muralists were further reinforced by Javier Guerrero, after which the artists launched El Machete – a weekly paper that soon became the official mouthpiece of the country’s Communist Party. Interestingly, both the life and work of Siqueiros bounced back and forth as far as success and acceptance go – periods of glamourization were followed by imprisonments and troubles with law. This was the case throughout the 1920s and it all changed about a decade after that when David arrived in the United States. He worked in Los Angeles for a while and this is often referred to as the mildest period of David Alfaro Siqueiros’ career. Most of the murals he made in the US were created in order to tell a tale of the America’s forceful relationship with Latin America[4]. Soon, the author relocated to New York City and opened up a school for young artists. The legendary Jackson Pollock was one of this school’s earliest students. However, following the rise of the left-leaning Lázaro Cárdenas to the Mexican presidency, Siqueiros returned to his home country, happy that a similar minded individual was finally in charge of the nation. His dynamic activist and revolutionary public art was brought to life by combining avant-garde visuals with symbolism and folk art vocabulary. After the Spanish Civil War broke out on the European soil, the artist traveled to Spain to serve and fight against the Fascists. He continued his anti-Fascist theme during World War II as well[5] and never truly abandoned the fiery passion for left-wing causes. In 1974, Siqueiros died in Cuernavaca, a place taht served the role of his home for the last decade prior to his death.

In order to create his revolutionary public art, David Alfaro Siqueiros decided to bring together elements of modern avant-garde painting, traditional symbolism and unconventional folk art

Painter Diego Orozco and San Carlos from New Mexico work with political modern mural works
David Alfaro Siqueiros – Castillo de Chapultepec – Image via ireneinmexicocity.com

The Inflexibility of David Alfaro Siqueiros

What strikes us the most about the art of David Alfaro Siqueiros is just how uncompromising it was – his work did not ever fear from stepping over some imaginary social or political line, never holding anything back. The art of Siqueiros was not even compromised by the fact its maker was placed in jail on more than one occasion – such events only enraged the author more as David only became more ruthless towards aspects of life and society he stood against. Furthermore, unlike many of his contemporaries, Siqueiros never accepted any commission or assignment that conflicted with his ideology even in the slightest. His devotion to education and the determined belief that public art could inspire the masses to demand changes and start revolutions has turned this Mexican legend into a worldwide inspiration and a model of how artistic activism can set fires if applied correctly.


  1. Tremblay, B., Magician’s Hat: Poems on the Life of David Alfaro Siqueiros, Lynx House Press, 2013
  2. White, D. A., Siqueiros: Biography of a Revolutionary Artist, BookSurge Publishing, 2009
  3. González, L., Torres, A., Siqueiros, A. S., Siqueiros: Landscape Painter, RM/MCLAA/MAGG, 2011
  4. Rodriguez, A., Hinojosa, J., Villarreal, M. G., Espindola, V. M., David Alfaro Siqueiros Mural Painting, Fondo Editorial de la Plastica Mexicana; First Edition, 1992
  5. Tovar, K., Lampert, C., Retana, G. D. R., Fox , L. C., Portrait of a Decade: David Alfaro Siqueiros, Whitechapel Art Gallery; Revised edition, 1997

Featured image: David Alfaro Siqueiros – Photo of the artist, 1944 – Image via pinterest.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017Mexican Graphic ArtKunsthaus Zürich, Zurich Group
2016JuanAchaMuseo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City Group
2016Tête À Tête: Portraits In DialogueAllan Stone Projects, New York City, NY Group
2015Los modernosMuseo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City Group
2015Miradas: Ancient Roots In Modern And Contemporary Mexican ArtMuseum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA Group
2015Taking Shape: Modern Works From The Permanent CollectionPalm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CAGroup
2015Mexico: Fantastic Identity 20Th Century Masterpieces From The Femsa CollectionMuseum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA Group
2015Encuentros México-ColombiaMuseo Nacional de Colombia, Bogota Group
2014David Alfaro Siqueiros: Mecanización: Arte y tecnología en la producción de SiqueirosSala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City Solo
2014Mexican Master David Alfaro Siqueiros and OthersRedbud Gallery, Houston, TX Solo
2014Grafica desde el encierroMuseo del Pueblo de Guanajuato, Guanajuato Solo
2014El Derrumbe de la estatua hacia una crítica del arte público (1952-2014)Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City Group
2014Razon de SerMuseo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City Group
2014¡Puro mexicano!Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City Group
2014Encuentros México-Colombia. Colección SURAMuseo de Antioquia, Medellín Group
2014Mexico: Fantastic IdentityAyala Museum, Makati City Group
2014Los Grandes del Arte Moderno MexicanoThe Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI Group
2014Solidaridad Y Resistencia. La Historia Del MssaMuseo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago Group
2014El hombre al desnudoMuseo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City Group
2013La Ruptura y sus antecedentesMuseo de Arte Moderno de Mexico City, Mexico City Group
2013Arte LatinoamericanoMuseo Nacional de Artes Visuales, Montevideo Group
2013Frida KahloARKEN Museum for Moderne Kunst, Ishoj Group
2013Construyendo TamayoMuseo Tamayo, Mexico City Group
2013Mexico: Art for the People, Works on Paper from the Museum CollectionTel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv Group
2013Los Grandes del Arte Moderno MexicanoThe Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI Group
2013MixtapeMolaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA Group
2013IntersectionsMolaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA Group
2012Encounters with the 1930sMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Group
2012The SupersurrealismModerna Museet Malmö, Malmö Group
2012Prints Of The PeopleThe McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX Group
2012Outside InMasur Museum of Art, Monroe, LA Group
2011Shore, Forest and BeyondVancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC Group
2011Mapping Another L.A.Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA Group
2011La Colección: Obras selectas del Museo de Arte ModernoMuseo de Arte Moderno de Mexico City, Mexico City Group
2010Siqueiros in Los AngelesMuseum of the American West, Los Angeles, CA Solo
2010Siqueiros: Landscape PainterMolaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA Solo
2010Siqueiros: Landscape PainterMuseo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City Solo
2010Der Grosse Mexikanische MuralistGalerie AM PARK, FrankfurtSolo
2010Eminencias del arte mexicano. Siglo XXMuseo de Arte Moderno, Toluca de Lerdo Group
2010Gran ReservaMuseo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago Group
2010Mexico Beyond Its RevolutionTufts University Art Gallery, Medford, MA Group
2010Mexican School & Mexican Contemporary ArtMuseum Kronberger Malerkolonie, Kronberg im Taunus Group
2010Four Views From The Molaa Permanent CollectionMolaa Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA Group
2010Indigenismo: Ancient Roots in Mexican ArtThe Newark Museum, Newark, NJ Group
2010Pintando la EducaciónMuseo Felipe Santiago Gutierrez, Mexico City Group
201050 Years, 50 Works, 100th AnniversaryAMA Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC Group
2010Imágenes del mexicanoMuseo Nacional de Arte (Munal), Mexico City Group
2010Modern in America: Works on Paper, 1900–1950sThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Group
2007Papeles latinoamericanosMuseo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Solo
2006An Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary LifeRoy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater, Los Angeles, CA Solo
2005Siqueiros: La Colección de Museo SoumayaMuseo de Arte de El Salvador, San Salvador Solo
2004Siqueiros: Spirit of a revolutionaryMuseo de las Américas, Denver, CO Solo
1974Homenaje a Siqueiros (1896-1974)Galeria Kreisler, Madrid Solo
1970David Alfaro SiqueirosThe Americas Society Art Gallery, New York City, NY Solo