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Mexican Journey

Documentation Signed
Origin United States
Period 1920-1949
Materials Oil on board
Dimensions
W. 48 in; H. 30.5 in;
W. 121.92 cm; H. 77.47 cm;
Condition Good. some crazing
Creation Date 1942
Description Lawrence Fine Art is pleased to present this extraordinary work of surrealism composed either during de Diego's sojourn in Mexico or right after his return. It seems to encapsulate that country's troupled past with references to the anti-clerical state, to the Catholic church and to the country's Indian and Aztec culture. It demonstrates his love of Renaissance art even as it demonstrates his ongoing work in the Renaissance method of “velatura,” building up to as many as forty glazes of oil in each painting.

De Diego was known for his "lyrical" works (his term), which combined elements of surrealism, cubism and the social commentary of the politically active Mexican painters. Born in Madrid in 1900, Julio De Diego left home at the age of 15 to apprentice as a scene painter for theaters. After service in the Spanish army, including six months fighting in North Africa, De Diego traveled to Paris and Rome to study art. He also appeared as an extra in Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. De Diego emigrated to the United States in 1924. He lived in New York for two years, then went to Chicago, where he remained until 1942. At first, he earned a living as a magazine illustrator, decorative painter, and graphic designer. By the early 1930s, he began to show regularly at the Art Institute of Chicago, appearing at thirty-two annual exhibitions of Chicago Artists, American artists, and watercolorists, between 1931 and 1947.

He traveled to Mexico for the first time in 1939, becoming close friends with Carlos Merida. De Diego was deeply affected by the Spanish Civil War, and many of his works of this time period, brooding and intimating a calamity to come, reflect the conflict that presaged the Second World War.

De Diego left Chicago in 1942, but continued to exhibit his work at major institutions. A 1946 Life magazine article described him spending time “cooking aromatic Spanish dishes and reading works of Spanish mystical philosophers and poets. He smokes cigarettes incessantly and dresses flamboyantly, affecting cerise mufflers and jangling bracelets.” He gained more notoriety in 1948 when he married the great burlesque artist, Gypsy Rose Lee. After their separation and divorce in the mid-1950s, De Diego lived for a time in New York at the Chelsea Hotel, a haunt of artists, musicians, and poets. He settled in Sarasota, Florida in 1967, near former friends from Chicago, where he died in 1979.

De Diego’s work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and is included in the collections of the Milwaukee Art Institute, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Montclair Art Museum, among other public and private collections
Styles / Movements Surrealism
Incollect Reference Number 379314
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