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Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950
October 25, 2016 - January 8, 2017
Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950
October 25, 2016 - January 8, 2017
Witness an extraordinary moment in the history of modern art, one fueled by cultural and political revolution.

From the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 to the aftermath of World War II, artists and intellectuals in Mexico were at the center of a great debate about their country’s destiny. The exhibition tells the story of this exhilarating period through a remarkable range of images, from masterpieces by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo to transfixing works by their contemporaries Dr. Atl, María Izquierdo, Roberto Montenegro, Carlos Mérida, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, and many others.

Paint the Revolution offers a deep look at the forces that shaped modern art in Mexico, the progress of which was closely watched around the world. The exhibition takes its name from an impassioned essay by American novelist John Dos Passos, who saw Mexico’s revolutionary murals during a visit to Mexico City in 1926–27.

In addition to featuring portable murals, easel paintings, photographs, prints, books, and broadsheets, the exhibition displays murals by the Tres grandes (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros) in digital form.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents this landmark exhibition in partnership with the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Drawn from US and Mexican collections, it is the most comprehensive exhibition of Mexican modernism to be shown in the United States in more than seven decades.


Share your experience #PaintTheRevolution @philamuseum.

Exhibition Trailer

Explore the Exhibition

Paint the Revolution tells the story of the painters, printmakers, sculptors, and photographers whose work was shaped by the revolution and the decades of reconstruction that followed.

Modernism and Mexicanidad

During the 1910s, artists in Mexico possessed a spirit of cosmopolitanism and a sense of national belonging. Those who had studied in Europe brought innovative styles back to Mexico City. For Mexican artists, modernism was not simply a matter of being in tune with international Postimpressionism, Art Nouveau, or Cubism. They were interested in creating an aesthetic with a distinctly Mexican character, or mexicanidad, based on national history, traditions, and identity.

Paint the Revolution

In 1920 President Álvaro Obregón sought to unite citizens through public education and the arts. Education Minister José Vasconcelos engaged painters to create murals about the Mexican Revolution, Mexico’s indigenous roots, and the history of the Mexican people. Painter Adolfo Best Maugard instituted a drawing system for use in primary schools, based in part on design elements seen in pre-Columbian art. This initiative left a mark on many young modernists.

In the City

In 1921 poet Manuel Maples Arce posted a manifesto in Mexico City declaring that Mexican culture should leap toward ultra-modernity. Artists responded with compositions depicting modern industry and city life. That same decade, a group of artists and writers later known as the Contemporáneos came together. Taking inspiration from contemporary life and attuned to international trends in painting, they demanded that art be treated as an end unto itself, not as an instrument of politics.

Paint the USA

In the 1920s and 1930s, Mexico became of wide interest to many people in the United States. Museums organized exhibitions devoted to Mexican art, universities and other institutions awarded commissions to Mexican painters, and observers lauded modern Mexican artists for their social consciousness. The development of a strong support network and market for their art in the US drew prominent Mexican painters like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and others northward.

In Times of War

The mid-1930s saw a renewal of combative populist and political art. International events continued to affect the Mexican art world at the end of the decade, as the Spanish Civil War and World War II brought a wave of exiled European artists to Mexico. In the years after World War II, Mexican modernism had a dual legacy. The tradition of political art persisted in the work of figures such as David Alfaro Siqueiros. This coexisted with painting in a more poetic and universalized manner and in tune with international trends in abstract art.

Mexican Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Museum’s collections of Mexican art are among the most important in the United States. Included among its renowned holdings are twentieth-century paintings and sculpture by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Julio Castellanos, and others. Explore more >>

The Museum also houses a significant number of works on paper by Mexican artists, including an extensive collection of prints. Explore more >>


Paint the Revolution is co-organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.


Bank of America is the National Sponsor of Paint the Revolution.

In Philadelphia, the exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, Christie’s, Bimbo Bakeries USA, The Mexican Society of Philadelphia in honor of Henry Clifford, and The Annenberg Foundation Fund for Major Exhibitions, with additional support from Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, Martha Hamilton Morris and I. Wistar Morris III, G. Theodore and Nancie Burkett, an anonymous donor, and other generous donors.

The accompanying catalogue in English and Spanish is made possible by the Mary Street Jenkins Foundation. The English-language edition is additionally supported by the Davenport Family Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

Exhibition education programs generously supported by PECO.

Exhibition travel courtesy of American Airlines.

The Museum gratefully acknowledges media partner Time Out.

The Museum recognizes community outreach partners the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia and the Mexican Cultural Center.




Matthew Affron, The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, and Mark A. Castro, Project Assistant Curator, European Painting, both of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Dafne Cruz Porchini, Postdoctoral Researcher, Colegio de México, Mexico City; and Renato González Mello, Director of the Institute for Aesthetic Investigation, National Autonomous University of Mexico


Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor
This exhibition will travel to the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, in 2017.