The Art Of Estaño

Painting by Philip Stein

I’ve created a brand new website that reveals the history of the Mexican Muralist Movement and one American artist’s personal connection to it. Philip Stein, also known as Estaño, worked alongside the famed Mexican Muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros from 1948 to 1958. He assisted the Mexican master in painting some of his most famous murals. I began corresponding with Estaño in August of 2003.

Based on our mutual involvement in socially conscious art, we agreed to collaborate on creating a website that would present his art to the world, as well as pay tribute to the school of Mexican muralism. A master artist in his own right, he was indelibly influenced by Mexican muralism in both style and content, and has continued to create artworks based on contemporary realities. His paintings are collected and exhibited around the world, and the new website will serve as the premiere online gallery for his work, in addition to being an international educational resource for researchers and art lovers.

In keeping with the theme of progressive humanistic causes and the march towards justice, mexicanmuralschool.com was officially launched on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday January 17, 2005.

The early twentieth century was marked by the conflict of ideas… on the battlefield, in the classroom, on the street corner. Revolutions on all corners of the globe, economic crises, and technological advancements made everyone question where the world was headed. As Europe hurtled towards its eventual conflict of ideologies, the US was emerging as a major world player both economically and militarily. With its revolution, Mexico sought to free itself from the mantle of European colonial values, and create a new and unique national identity.

The artists who emerged out of revolutionary Mexico in the 1930s would launch the most successful attempt in world history at unifying art and politics. They created a national art form that sent shockwaves throughout the world which are still reverberating today. Using techniques learned in Europe, master artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco took art directly to the people, evoking revolutionary ideology on the walls of major public buildings in the form of murals. In addition to the artist’s sheer technical mastery, their efforts were unparalleled as they taught their audience who they were, where they had come from, and where they were going.

The Mexican Muralists showed the country as it looked before colonial conquest by Europeans… they revealed the agony of centuries of oppression of the indigenous population, and ultimately, brought all of this history together as they plunged their viewers into the ideological conflicts of the day.

The influence of the muralists was not limited to Mexico; all three artists would also create murals in the United States. Mexico City for a time become the pinnacle of artistic fervor, attracting some of the world’s most noted intellectuals. Furthermore, avante-garde American artists of the Great Depression Era would be influenced both in content and technique, by what was going on in Mexico. In the 1960s and 70s, young Mexican-Americans would rediscover the art of the 1930s masters, giving rise to the Chicano mural movement.

As we enter the 21st century and see images by Diego Rivera gracing personal bank checks, and handbags painted with the portrait of Frida Kahlo, we must ask ourselves – “what was the Mexican Mural movement” and “what can we learn from it?” It is for this reason, that mexicanmuralschool.com has come into being.

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