David Alfaro Siqueiros is, along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, one of the fathers of the Mexican muralist school. His work, often explosive and full of passion, is presided by the will to create an experimental and innovative mural painting.

José de Jesús Alfaro Siqueiros was born on December 29, 1896, some say in Chihuahua; others say in Mexico City. He was the son of Cipriano Alfaro, a lawyer with a reputation as an intellectual and great reader, and Teresa Siqueiros. As a child, he was rebellious, curious, and independent, and his long stays at his grandparents' home in Irapuato, Guanajuato, influenced his ideas, readings, and early memories. Upon the death of his grandparents, the Siqueiros move to Mexico City.

He enters the National Preparatory School and in the evenings, he studies art at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, where he develops his creativity and revolutionary ideas. So revolutionary that when he was only 15 years old, he was expelled from the Academy for participating in a student strike protesting against the school's inappropriate method of teaching art. This was his first incursion into politics and his first loud manifestation that from that moment until the end of his days he lived between art, politics, and revolutions.

In 1914, at the age of 18, he enlisted in the constitutionalist army of Venustiano Carranza, to fight against the usurper Victoriano Huerta. There he discovered the working masses, workers, peasants, artisans, and indigenous people, but above all, he had access to the enormous Mexican cultural tradition.

In 1919 he left for Europe to study. There her artistic thinking crystallizes. Later, back in Mexico, he joins the Communist Party, is one of the founders of the artists' union, as well as the founder of the newspaper El Machete. By 1925 he is dedicated exclusively to political activities; he resumes his artistic work in the 1930s and never abandons his ideological militancy for which he is imprisoned more than six times throughout his life.

In 1939 he painted the mural Portrait of the bourgeoisie in the building of the Mexican Electricians Union. For being an accomplice of Trotsky's assassination, he lives almost three years in Chile, in the city of Chillán and the "Escuela México" he paints in the library the mural Muerte al invasor ("Death to the invader"), which, according to Carlos Fuentes, is in Chile where he reaches the perfection of his art.

"Artistic creation is the contact with others, the understanding, and loving union."'- the famous phrase of David Alfaro Siqueiros.
David Alfaro Siqueiros next to his painting entitled El Coronelazo.
David Alfaro Siqueiros next to his painting entitled El Coronelazo. Image: INAH

In the Palace of Fine Arts he painted several murals: Nueva Democracia (New Democracy), Cuauhtémoc redivivo, Víctimas de la guerra (Victims of War) and Víctimas del Fascismo (Victims of Fascism). At Chapultepec Castle in the Revolution Hall of the National Museum of History is the mural Del porfirismo a la Revolución (From Porfirism to the Revolution).

In the Polyforum Siqueiros is the largest mural in the world La marcha de la humanidad (The March of Humanity) and at other times he paints his best self-portraits El Coronelazo (The Colonel's Day) and Yo por yo (Me for Me). David Alfaro Siqueiros died in Cuernavaca on January 6, 1974 and his remains are in the Distinguished Persons' Memorial (Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres).

Mural by Siqueiros, "From Porfirism to the Revolution", painted in 1957.
Mural by Siqueiros, "From Porfirism to the Revolution", painted in 1957.

From Porfirism to Revolution

Mexico suffered during 10 intense years of revolution that unleashed the fury of many and left others in despair. Shortly after the culmination of this event, mural painting flourished, which was supported by large public buildings. If there is a significant mural of this movement and which, in addition, summarizes with great artistic skill the history of the Mexican Revolution, it is precisely that of David Alfaro Siqueiros. His mural, entitled Del Porfirismo a la Revolución (From Porfirism to the Revolution), concentrates a large part on the protagonists of this event. This monumental painting whispers on the walls of Chapultepec Castle the names of those who make up the composition: peasants, ideologues, politicians, and deceased, among other figures.