Miguel Covarrubias - 11/15/2014

Today's guest entry was written by Cuauhtemoc Murphy, an artist and educator from Texas whose work can be found here.

The New Mexico Museum of Art  collection includes international art that links the core collection to the West, the Americas, and the World. Miguel Covarrubias is a perfect example of an artist that does just that. The museum has only a handful of his large body of work, but what they do have is worth making a trip out to see them.

Like many others, I did not know of his work-- yet he was creating art during the second half of the great Diego Rivera's career, and for that matter they both died the same year, 1957.

Miguel Covarrubias was born 1904 in Mexico City and was an author, painter, caricaturist, staff cartoonist for Vanity Fair magazine, and professor of art history at the National School of Anthropology in Mexico City. The New Mexico Museum of Art has the following books: The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans (1925), Negro Drawings (1927), Island of Bali (1937), The Eagle, the Jaguar, and the Serpent: Indian Art of the Americas: North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States (1954), Miguel Covarrubias Caricatures (1985), and a lithograph in their collection.

Miguel Covarrubias
Mexican Street Scene, n.d.
Lithograph on white wove paper
Gift of Sears, Roebuck & Co., 1965

The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans (1925) has many of the drawings that were originally published in Vanity Fair magazine, while Covarrubias was a staff cartoonist.

The book features several dozen black-and-white caricatures of famous Americans (mostly New York-based but also Hollywood). Personalities from the 1920s such as the likes of Clark Gable, Alexander Woollcott, Shirley Temple, Paul Whiteman, and many others were portrayed in caricatures that ranged from art-deco to surrealistic. This book really showcases his eye of the 20s and brings to light his entertaining style. I can't state that he pioneered that style, but of the examples I found it was and still is the hallmark of that period-- when I think of clubs that may have had caricatures lining their walls.

Another book that stood out from the museum's collection is Covarrubias's Island of Bali (1937). This has come to be regarded as a classic work on the Balinese people and their civilization. From all that I read regarding the book it is an extremely thorough account of Balinese life.
The Eagle, the Jaguar, and the Serpent : Indian Art of the Americas: North America: Alaska, Canada, the United States (1954) is a book that is also in the Stanford University's collection.

This is one that I personally want to see more of because of the quality of the illustrations. Just from my limited contact with Rebecca Potance, the museum's Librarian/Archivist/Webmaster, and surfing the museums site I want to make a trip to the New Mexico Museum of Art.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum down the street from The New Mexico Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition about Covarrubias until January 18, 2015 Their webpage summarizes his connection to New Mexico and American Modernism.

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