9 Hispanic Artists You Should Know (and love!)
From Frida Kahlo’s unmistakable portraits to Picasso’s groundbreaking abstraction, Hispanic artists have had a dramatic impact on the art world. As we take a step back to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15th through Oct 15th), we want to honor the Hispanic and Latino artists who have shaped the way we see and understand art. Below, we highlight nine Hispanic and Latino artists who have done just that.
Not only did these artists have a profound impact on the development of artistic styles and trends, but many also made significant sacrifices to achieve their dreams and make their mark on the world.
#1. Joan Miró (1893–1983)
Born in Barcelona, Joan Miró constantly pushed the boundaries of artistic expression, using abstraction and vibrant colors to seamlessly entrance his audience. Miró’s work is considered Surrealist, often using whimsical and dreamlike elements in his paintings. He was passionate about creating art that exemplified unique concepts and compositions not often seen in traditional paintings. In addition to his painting, Miró was also a keen sculptor and ceramicist. He famously created multiple large, bronze statues that embodied many of the same exciting surrealist concepts seen in his paintings. Miró demonstrated his fierce Catalan pride in many avenues of his life, famously ensuring that much of his work still resides in his home city of Barcelona. Joan Miró is still considered one of the most influential painters of all time, encouraging young artists to play with themes traditionally considered “child-like” and turn them into thought-provoking masterpieces.
#2. Frida Kahlo (1907–1954)
From her striking self portraits to her tumultuous personal life, Frida Kahlo’s legacy has utterly changed the way that we view and interpret art. Kahlo was born in a small township in Mexico City and her strong Mexican pride is consistently seen in her work. At age 6 she fought a difficult battle with polio and at 18 she was tragically involved in a bus accident that left her with a lifetime of pain and medical struggles.
These tribulations did not deter Kahlo, in fact, her real success began after her accident when she started using her spare time in bed to paint. Her art was often considered Surrealist, because of its fictional elements, however Kahlo corrected this, saying “They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality”. Her style was more aptly dubbed “magical realism”, which depicts a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements. Unlike surrealists, magical realists don’t probe the unconscious or dreams. Instead, they emphasize the actual strangeness of the real world. Frida Kahlo’s life and work has left behind a legacy of strong Mexican pride and fearless perseverance.
#3. David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974)
David Alfaro Siqueiros was one of the leading figures of the Mexican muralist movement, while also traversing constant controversy throughout his life. Born in Chihuahua City, Mexico, Siqueiros quickly developed a passion for Marxist ideologies, which he often incorporated in his art. This affiliation caused him to be jailed multiple times during his life. Siqueiros was considered a “social realist” painter, frequently painting beautiful and thought-provoking murals depicting revolution and political ideologies. He used bold shapes and colors to depict the struggle of the working class and the oppression they faced. He believed that, through his art, he could change the hearts and minds of the public. Siqueiros’ commitment to using his artistic talent for political change led him to create some of the most revolutionary and controversial works of art, which have since shaped the way we view social realist art.
#4. Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)
Picasso was born in Southern Spain to a middle class family and he quickly discovered his passion for the arts through the formal training that he received from his father at an early age. His talent flourished and he ultimately went on to co-found the Cubist movement and introduce multiple unique styles to the art world. He consistently bent the rules of traditional art, often breaking subjects apart and re-arranging them in unnatural ways. This unique style allowed Picasso to make complex commentary on the world he was living in, taking the viewer on a journey through his unique compositions and subjects. Similar to David Alfaro Siqueiros, Picasso felt that it was important to intertwine politics with art. Arguably one of Picasso’s most famous paintings, Guernica, became a strong anti-war symbol and brought attention to the Spanish Civil War. His revolutionary spirit has gone on to inspire the next generation of artists, encouraging them to think outside of the box and experiment with their artistic style.
#5. Diego Rivera (1886–1957)
Mexican muralist and painter, Diego Rivera, spent his life creating art that was simultaneously beautiful and provocative. A member of the Communist party, Rivera painted murals that criticized the ruling class, the Catholic church, and Capitalism. He also famously married fellow artist, Frida Kahlo. Rivera’s staggering murals came to shape the Mexican Muralist Movement, alongside fellow artists, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. His murals became particularly popular in America and he was ultimately asked to paint a mural for the Rockefeller Center. He called the mural Man at the Crossroads and planned to depict comparisons between Capitalism and Communism.
Nelson Rockefeller famously fired Rivera from the Rockefeller Center project when Rivera refused to remove a portrait of Vladimir Lenin in the mural. Rivera was steady in his commitment to his craft and refused to compromise his political beliefs. His incredible influence on the development of public mural art has arguably become his most important legacy.
#6. Marisol (1930–2016)
Marisol Escobar was a Venezuelan-American artist, born in Paris to affluent, Venezuelan parents and is best known for her sculptural work with wood and various items. She was passionate about emphasizing the constraints of gender norms and used her art to reclaim both femininity and female sexuality. She eventually dropped her last name, opting to simply be referred to as ‘Marisol’, a decision that solidified her as an unmistakable pop-figure. Marisol often implemented complex social statements into her art, frequently making humorous and thought-provoking commentary on current events and trends.
She used a variety of artistic techniques, such as Pop art, Dadaism, folk art, and surrealism to bring her eye-catching creations to life. She created assemblages unlike any other work being done at the time, working with plaster casts, wooden blocks, woodcarvings, drawings, photography, paint, and pieces of contemporary clothing. Marisol Escobar artwork became so adored by the public that it can now be found in museums across the country, from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in New York.
#7. Emilio Sanchez (1921–1999)
Born in Cuba, Emilio Sanchez, discovered the undeniable beauty of vibrant tropical colors at a young age. At age 23, Sanchez moved to New York City and began to explore his personal artistic style. He initially leaned into naturalism, painting his views around New York City and recreating tropical scenes from his childhood. Later in life, he found his unique niche within the art world, creating simplistic, vibrant architecture paintings.
He is likely most famous for his straight-on, pared down paintings of empty homes. These paintings emphasize the beauty that Sanchez saw in the home’s symmetrical and sturdy architecture. While these classic paintings seem simple at first glance, it was Sanchez’s bold use of color and geometric shapes that elicit a feeling of warmth and homeliness, even while devoid of human subjects.
Emilio Sanchez’s paintings have become legendary for their unique blend of colorful Caribbean influences and classic American artistic styles. The United States recently released a set of forever stamps of some of Sanchez’s most beloved paintings, to honor his incredible influence on the art world and his Cuban heritage.
#8. Carlos Almaraz (1941–1989)
Carlos Almaraz was a Mexican-American artist that had an exceptional ability to emphasize the complexities and contradictions of daily life. Born in Mexico City, Almaraz moved to the United States at a young age and began to develop his creative abilities, experimenting with poetry, painting, and drawing. He was a proud supporter of Céasar Chávez and the United Farmworkers Union. This passion led him to create a multitude of street art and banners to support the cause.
Almaraz’s undeniable talent for street art attracted public attention and he ultimately formed the group “Los Four”, which focused on highlighting the power of street art. He is also credited as one of the most influential leaders of the Chicago Art Movement. Almaraz’s use of bold color and exciting textures and subjects has caused his art to remain popular today. His ability to express both powerful political messages and effortlessly beautiful fantasy scenes demonstrates his profound talent as both an artist and an activist.
#9. José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949)
José Clemente Orozco was a Mexican artist who was a primary member of Los Tres Grandes, which also included Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. This group had a dramatic impact on the political environment in Mexico, as it recoiled from the Mexican Revolution. Orozco was a pioneer of Mexican Muralism, where he was able to emphasize his political views and spur political engagement. One of his mentors, Gerardo Murillo, encouraged Orozco to stray away from the trendy artistic styles at the time and embrace traditional Mexican artistic themes. He never forgot this lesson, and made an effort to constantly demonstrate his Mexican pride and style in all of his paintings.
He believed that his artistic abilities were most impactful when he used them to depict the harsh realities that he saw in the community. Many of his murals used a dark color palette to emphasize the sadness and inequality that he saw in the world. José Clemente Orozco paintings are found today in both the United States and Mexico, acting as a reminder of his great work as an activist and his undeniable artistic talent.