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Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries

Paz, Octavio
712 pages
550 illustrations
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This landmark publication, which accompanies a major exhibition, celebrates the immense artistic riches created in Mexico through its 3,000-year history. More than 350 sculptures, paintings, and objects from museums and private collections in Mexico, the United States, and Europe illustrate this unsurpassed survey of Mexican culture. Each work is illustrated in full color and is accompanied by a text that will be of interest to both the general reader and the scholar.

The substantial foreword, written by Octavio Paz, the distinguished Mexican author, presents a most lively and acute analysis of the national character, art, and history. Each section—Pre-Columbian Art, Viceregal Art, Nineteenth-Century Art, and Twentieth-Century Art—is introduced by an essay written by an eminent scholar.

Eight major sites are presented in the Pre-Columbian Section: La Venta, Izapa, Teotihuacán, Monte Albán, Palenque, El Tajín, Chichén Itzá, and Tenochtitlán. Short essays, illustrated with site maps and photographs, introduce the sites, thus placing the works of art in their historical and physical contexts.

The viceregal section examines the implications of the fateful encounter of the great Indian civilizations of Mexico and the Spanish conquistadores. Illustrated essays discuss the transmutation of the European forms that were introduced into Mexico and the gradual growth of a new and vibrant culture. This indepth presentation of the period from the early sixteenth century through the eighteenth century offers illuminating insights into the forces that shape cultural and aesthetic change.

The art of nineteenth-century Mexico is richly represented by some forty paintings, most of which will be new to American readers. The influential prints by Posada and his contemporaries provide a lively conclusion to this section. The great twentieth-century muralists—Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros—are presented through a strong selection of their easel paintings. All of the other major artists of the first half of this century are discussed, as well as some whose work is only now receiving the acclaim it deserves.

The Metropolitan Museum commissioned four teams of photographers to photograph both archaeological sites and art in Mexico; their material and much from other sources make this perhaps the most richly illustrated book ever produced by the Metropolitan. This is an unrivaled publication; by presenting the Mexican heritage so fully and in such depth, it will be the standard work on this subject in English.

Standing Figure, Green schist, Teotihuacan
3rd–7th century
Disk, Slate, cinnabar, Veracruz
7th–10th century
Page from the 'Gaceta Callejera' relating to the continuation of anti-re-election riots, José Guadalupe Posada  Mexican, Type-metal engraving and letterpress on buff paper
The Café Terrace, Diego Rivera  Mexican, Oil on canvas
Basin, Master Potter A, Tin-glazed earthenware, Mexican
ca. 1650

View Citations

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), San Antonio Museum of Art, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, eds. 1990. Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries. New York : Boston: Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Little, Brown.