El Fusilado (The Shot), 1950 by Leopoldo Mendez (1902-1969), Mexico
El Fusilado (The Shot), 1950 Leopoldo Mendez (1902-1969), Mexico Linoleum block print, signed in pencil 17.5" x 21.5" paper size
This linoleum-block print is one of five Leopoldo Méndez created to serve as backdrops for the credits to the 1950 feature-length film Una Día de Vida (One Day of Life), by the renowned Mexican director Emilio Fernández. The five prints were presented in a portfolio, and depicted key scenes in this story of the Mexican Revolution. El Fusilado (The Shot) depicts a dignified peasant martyr killed by firing squad.
Méndez is widely considered the finest printmaker in the history of Mexico. In 1937, Méndez, Luis Arenal, and Pablo O’Higgins founded the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP). Established in Mexico City, the TGP (The People’s Print Workshop) was active through the 1960s, creating thirty-five major portfolios of woodcuts, linocuts and lithographs, and a total output of over 4,000 prints.
Mendez worked quietly. Preferring to be relatively anonymous during his life, Méndez did not gain immediate recognition. It was only after his death that art historians and museum curators began to realize the importance of his contributions. He now ranks among the greatest of twentieth-century Mexican artists, keeping good company with artists such as José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siquieros, Diego Rivera, and José Guadalupe Posada.
El Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) was a collective center for the creation of sociopolitical art. Sharing the post-revolutionary idealism of the Mexican muralists, the TGP aimed to reach a broad audience, primarily through the dissemination of inexpensive wood- and linoleum-block prints. The group’s declaration of principles announced, “The TGP believes that, in order to serve the people, art must reflect the social reality of the times and have unity in content and form.”