The Power and Politics of Art in Postrevolutionary Mexico

By Stephanie J. Smith

292 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3568-2
    Published: December 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3567-5
    Published: December 2017
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3569-9
    Published: November 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4681-5
    Published: November 2017

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
Stephanie J. Smith brings Mexican politics and art together, chronicling the turbulent relations between radical artists and the postrevolutionary Mexican state. The revolution opened space for new political ideas, but by the late 1920s many government officials argued that consolidating the nation required coercive measures toward dissenters. While artists and intellectuals, some of them professed Communists, sought free expression in matters both artistic and political, Smith reveals how they simultaneously learned the fine art of negotiation with the increasingly authoritarian government in order to secure clout and financial patronage. But the government, Smith shows, also had reason to accommodate artists, and a surprising and volatile interdependence grew between the artists and the politicians.

Involving well-known artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, as well as some less well known, including Tina Modotti, Leopoldo Méndez, and Aurora Reyes, politicians began to appropriate the artists’ nationalistic visual images as weapons in a national propaganda war. High-stakes negotiating and co-opting took place between the two camps as they sparred over the production of generally accepted notions and representations of the revolution’s legacy—and what it meant to be authentically Mexican.

About the Author

Stephanie J. Smith, associate professor of Latin American and Mexican history at The Ohio State University, is the author of Gender and the Mexican Revolution: Yucatán Women and the Realities of Patriarchy.
For more information about Stephanie J. Smith, visit the Author Page.


“Smith demonstrates how individuals wove their involvement with the PCM into their art, political action, and personal relationships, and how these connections evolved over time. The result is an impressive work of scholarship that is a joy to read.”--H-Net Reviews

“A superb new study of art in Mexico from the 1920s to the 1950s . . . Remarkable for its incorporation of new archival sources and mastery of existing scholarship.”--The Americas

“This book will no doubt appeal to the nearly insatiable popular interest, unmitigated by time, in the transnational bohemian cohort gathered in revolutionary Mexico.”--Hispanic American Historical Review

“Smith’s book contributes to our understanding of just how important the PCM became for artists.”--American Historical Review

"Far reaching, pathbreaking, and ambitious, Stephanie Smith‘s book is the first to fully recognize the many contributions of numerous women in the intellectual, artistic, and political circles of 1920s and '30s Mexico City--revealing their marginalization by both the right and the left. Perhaps most important, she productively expands the concept of culture in postrevolutionary Mexico. Required reading." --Ben Fallaw, Colby College

"A valuable introduction to the lives and works of Mexican artists during the epic postrevolutionary period--nothing else comes close to its scope. Stephanie Smith is the first historian to place the relationship between artists and Mexican Communism at center stage. Tracing the complicated and changing relationships that bound artists to the Communist movement, she shows why politics mattered for the state, artists, and, more generally, radical intellectuals." --Barry Carr, La Trobe University