If You Like Pablo Picasso, You'll Love Rodolfo Nieto

Each of these artists combined folk crafts with modern art to produce characterful, whimsical work

By Google Arts & Culture

Dish with a dove (1949/1949) by Pablo PicassoMuseo Internazionale delle Ceramiche

Pablo Picasso is perhaps the most famous artist of the 20th Century. His paintings can be found decorating everything from walls to bowls. Picasso became enamoured by pottery in 1946, when he visited a ceramics fair and met the owners of the Madoura Pottery workshop.

He would work with the workshop until his death in 1973, painting their pottery and producing his own custom designs. This shallow dish with painted dove, made in 1949, shows an early collaboration.

The dove became a particularly potent symbol for Picasso in the wake of the Second World War. He began painting doves in January of 1949, ahead of the First International Peace Conference in Paris. What began as a series of naturalistic sketches soon became highly stylized.

This dove, with its ruffled feathers and rough nest, doesn't seem particularly elegant. The thick streaks of paint applied to the smooth dish give it an earthy appearance.

The cracked glazing and the wobbly surfaces suggest that this dish was formed by hand. It looks more like the work of someone untrained than an artist. Yet it seems to be drawn from the heart. It's a dish that speaks plainly, honestly, and with conviction of peace.

Black Camel (Bestiary Series) (1967-1968) by Rodolfo NietoColección Blaisten

Rodolfo Nieto was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1936 and spent his youth in Mexico City. He entered the School of Painting and Sculpture, also known as 'La Esmeralda' as a student of the school's founder, the artist Carlos Orozco Romero.

Nieto was introduced to European modernism by fellow student Juan Soriano. In the early 1960s, he moved to Paris to expand his artistic education and befriended Julio Cortázar, Severo Toledo, and José Bianco. It was in Paris where he developed his distinctive style of painting.

Nieto combined the Mexican folk art of alebrijes - brightly-colored wood sculptures of fantastical creatures - with images and stories taken from Tarzan comics. The paintings and prints that he made from this unlikely pairing would become the Bestiario series.

The 1960s was a time of radicalism and rethinking. Artists on both sides of the Atlantic were looking to folk art and modern media for inspiration. In this context, Nieto's work doesn't seem so strange.

The prominent curator and critic Fernando Gamboa stated that noise and melody, the human figure and graphic line, expression and invention, reality and fiction are all interwoven in Nieto's canvases.

This whimsical style captures not only the lumpy, gawky appearance of the camel, but also its uncompromising, cantankerous nature. It's a characterful portrait that seems to call back to the prehistoric art of Chauvet Cave or the pre-Columbian paintings of the Pueblo people.

Nieto's distinctive style won him the Biennale de Paris Prize for painting in 1963, and again for the second time in 1968. In 1966, he was asked to illustrate Jorge Luis Borge's The Book of Imaginary Beings. His work even established a style now known as the Oaxacan School.

Nieto returned to Mexico in the early 1970s. He had found fame in Europe, but struggled at home. He believed that his art wasn't being taken seriously by his compatriots. He continued to work, often with his wife, Nancy, but his work never again achieved worldwide recognition.

Iguana Suite (2) (1976) by Francisco ToledoMuseum of Latin American Art

If you enjoyed discovering the work of Rodolfo Niedo, then why not take a look at some of the other artists of the Oaxacan School, such as Rufino Tamayo and Francisco Toledo, who painted this picture, Iguana Suite, in 1976.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps