From the Prison Fantasies suite
1900
   From the Prison Fantasies suite

Excellent condition, unframed.

Siqueiros naturally took a stance against the government -- and suffered for it. Funding for his murals was cut, both by the government and private parties, who wanted to distance themselves from his dangerous ideas. Used to suffering setbacks in his artistic career for the benefit of his political one, the painter paid no heed. In 1959, he founded the Committee for the Freedom of Political Prisoners and Defense of Democratic Liberties. The last straw, however, was when Siqueiros toured Venezuela and the newly-Communist Cuba with a series of political speeches, attracting international attention to the actions of the Lopez Mateos government.

The painter returned to Mexico to discover that a smear campaign had been unrolled against him in the government-controlled press. He received death threats. On March 31, 1960, he was arrested by the Special Security Police, though released a few hours later with a stern warning to stop his activism. Siqueiros refused to be intimidated. Then, on the day of August 9th, as the painter and Angelica were heading home for lunch, they realized they were being followed. Angelica, who was driving, sped away through the narrow streets of Mexico city and managed to lose their tail. They headed for the Cuban embassy, where Siqueiros hoped he would have the ambassador's protection. It was Sunday, however, and the embassy was closed to all business. Telling Angelica to go home, the painter took a cab to the house of his friend Dr. Carrillo Gil. It seemed, however, that this was being watched. Police agents arrived and knocked on the door. They presented no warrant and, overpowering both the homeowner and his guest, dragged Siqueiros off to the police station.

For the next several days, the painter was kept in solitary confinement and subject to several rounds of intimidating interrogation. Publicly, the police denied having him in custody. Siqueiros' fame and high profile, however, meant that this could not be kept up for long and, a week later, the artist was moved to a regular prison with the other political prisoners. The government had little to formally charge Siqueiros with -- incarceration served to stop the painter's political activities, and now the prosecution dragged its feet as much as possible. The trial took place some 17 months after the artist's arrest; he was accused of sedition. The guilty verdict and an 8-year sentence were delivered 2 months later.

An international campaign calling for the liberation of Siqueiros unrolled almost immediately. In France, a group of painters led by Picasso petitioned for his release. There was much outcry among the artists of the United States, and even John and Jackie Kennedy took an interest, though the State Department advised that it would be unwise for the USA to interfere in Mexico's internal affairs. The Mateos Lopez administration was flooded with letters demanding the artist's immediate release and, in the end, they succeeded. On July 13, 1964, nearly 4 years since his arrest, Siqueiros was led out of his cell.

The artist had aged visibly during his imprisonment. He had been allowed to paint in prison -- in fact, he had amassed a small fortune through the sale of these "Prison Paintings" -- and the toxic pyroxylin paints that he used had taken a toll on his health. Inwardly, he was unchanged. Not long after his release, he was busy at work on the mural projects he had been forced to abandon because of his time in jail. From Porfirio to the Revolution (1966) is by far one of Siqueiros' most iconic works: eloquent, powerful, straightforward and executed with great technical mastery. His political sympathies were equally unchanged, and he continued to attend protests, speak at meetings, file petitions and equivocate endlessly against the injustice of the Mexican political system and society.

In 1967, Siqueiros was presented with the Lenin Peace Prize -- the Soviet equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize. This suite was created the following year, and was inspired by the events described above.


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