Fine Arts

As New York thrust its way onto the world scene in the early 20th century, aspiring artists made their way here from around the U.S. and throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. The city offered well-heeled patrons, galleries and museums, a lively international scene, art schools, and commercial enterprises where their artistic skills earned them a living.
 
New York also plunged its inhabitants into the vortex of modern life. Artists who responded to its aesthetic and practical challenges advanced their work and careers and added to the creative energy. The experimental workshop run by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros was one hub of modern art; another was the New School for Social Research, where Mexican José Clemente Orozco and Ecuadorian Camilo Egas painted murals and Egas ran the studio art courses. No place topped the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)—where Diego Rivera had a one-man show in 1931—for introducing New York and the nation to the arts and artists of the Americas.

Miguel Covarrubias (Mexico, 1904–57), Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art at the Museum of Modern Art, 1940. Watercolor. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Sra. Rosa R. de Covarrubias. Renowned Mexican painter and caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias, who was a longtime New Yorker, helped curate Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, a monumental 1940 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition that aimed for a “complete and balanced picture” of Mexican art. Covarrubias also recreated the exhibit’s glittering opening night for the readers of Vogue.

The original plan to open the exhibit in Paris in May 1940 was frustrated by the threat posed to the precious cargo by Nazi U-boats. Nelson Rockefeller (then president of MoMA) persuaded Mexican President Cárdenas to switch venues to Manhattan. 

Miguel Covarrubias (Mexico, 1904–57), Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art at the Museum of Modern Art, 1940. Watercolor. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Sra. Rosa R. de Covarrubias.

Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguay, 1874–1949), New York Docks, 1920. Oil and gouache on cardboard. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Collection Société Anonyme. A native of Uruguay, Joaquín Torres-García spent many years abroad. In New York from 1920-22, captivated by the city’s “thousands of new forms in motion,” Torres-García painted the tall buildings and modes of transportation that linked “Business Town” to the rest of the world. His style of modernist expression would later exert great influence in Latin America. 
Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguay, 1874–1949), New York Docks, 1920. Oil and gouache on cardboard. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Collection Société Anonyme.

Tamayo was one of the most important Mexican artists of the 20th century. Younger than Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco, he rejected the socially conscious subject matter of these muralists in his own work. Tamayo likely painted this image while living in New York (1926-48, off and on) and teaching for a time at the Dalton School.
Rufino Tamayo (Mexico, 1899–1991), El Helado de Fresa (Strawberry Ice Cream), 1938. Oil on canvas. Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, New York.
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