Miguel Covarrubias

Mexico City, 1904 - Mexico City, 1957



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About


Miguel Covarrubias was precisely what can be called a humanist, sincerely and passionately committed to the study of culture, not only of Mexico, but also from other regions: United States, Central and South America, China, Bali, etc.. In the artistic and scientific circles of this country-Mexico-his performance was decisive: anthropology, archeology, painting, drawing, dance, museology flourished from their example and their promotional work. The importance of Miguel Covarrubias lies in the richness of his own creation. As a cartoonist, his drawings marked an era and style in magazines like Vanity Fair and Vogue. Celebrities and nationalities were critical and humorously portrayed by Miguel Covarrubias, and incidentally, showed his great skill as a draftsman. His studies and illustrations of pre-Columbian cultures of North, Central and South America are key sources for information. People and customs of southern Mexico, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, were the subject of a magisterial inquiry. The people of Bali is eternally grateful to him for the international projection and socio-anthropological rescue that he did in the unsurpassable book, “Island of Bali”. Numerous drawings and paintings show an artistic approach to these geographically separate regions, but aesthetically together in the vision of this universal man.

Several archaeological collections in Mexico and abroad, were organized following the sage advice of Covarrubias. Mexican dance experienced a golden age when he became head of the Department of Dance INBA, where he made his contributions encouraging dancers and choreographers who then gave their first steps on stage, emerging choreographic ideas and designing sets and costumes. The work “Zapata” of classical ballet in Mexico, it’s enough to show the importance of Covarrubias in this field.

His maps and other mural works contain a wealth of information on ethnology of different groups, while showing his aesthetic conception. The music and dances of black Americans-basically jazz-are reflected in his series of Black Drawings, in which the formal synthesis and sensuality of movement achieved a remarkable interpretation. (Source: By Robert Littman in "Miguel Covarrubias", Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo, 1987)

Miguel Covarrubias was not just a theorist, a mere storage of data. All  the width world was his laboratory, and his treasure of knowledge was rich fuel that fed his fertile creative talent of multiple realizations. (Source: "His smile and his unparalleled knowledge", by Fernando Gamboa in "Miguel Covarrubias", Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo, 1987)

It was, in many fields, precursor and discoverer. He had a delicate sensitivity antennas with which he perceived value of things before the world in general even noticing its existence. To cite just one of countless examples: when the African music began to go crazy "cultured" public, Miguel Covarrubias already had a fabulous collection and an extensive documentation of it. (Source: "His smile and his unparalleled knowledge", by Fernando Gamboa in "Miguel Covarrubias", Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo, 1987)

Miguel Covarrubias was only nineteen when he arrived in New York in 1923, during one of the most dazzling periods in the history of the arts in North America. It was the jazz age, the era of speakeasies where drinking bath-tub gin, songs like Let's all get excited and make WHOOPEE, by the fleppers (emancipated girls) with wild hair, frantically dancing the Charleston. In this Babylon in the Hudson, the young Miguel Covarrubias, already an accomplished artist, trained in the great Mexican tradition, quickly became a celebrity. His output was incredibly dynamic and abundant. He published several books, illustrated others, designed costumes and sets for ballets and plays, made ​​hundreds of cartoons to the big magazines, especially for the prestigious Vanity Fair. His cartoons are a biting social commentary (and irresistibly funny) of the '20s and '30s, performed without pretense, without moralizing. Essentially artist, Miguel Covarrubias was not a sanctimonious preacher to denounce the evils of his time. However, if the surface appearance of his work reflects all his pleasure in the comedy of life, the background hides the tragedy that inevitably accompanies comedy. I agree with the judgment of Diego Rivera: "In his art, no vicious cruelty, is all irony untainted by malice, a young and clean humor." (Source: "Renaissance Man", by John L. Brown on "Miguel Covarrubias", Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo, 1987)

 

Main Solo Exhibitions

 

1924 Miguel Covarrubias began his collaboration with Vanity Fair as cartoonist holder, New York.

1925 Publication of his comic book "The Prince of Wales and other famous Americans", New York.

1925 He began his long collaboration in the weekly magazine The New Yorker.

1925 "Miguel Covarrubias: Exposición de dibujos de Harlem", The New Gallery, New York.

1925 "Miguel Covarrubias: Caricaturas", The Dudensing Gallery, Nueva York.

1927 Publication of the book "Black Drawings", New York. And baptized "discoverer of Harlem"

1928 "Miguel Covarrubias", Valentine Gallery, New York.

1930 He married Rosa Rolanda in New York, and travel to Yokohama, Tokyo, Kobe, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Makasar, Java, Bali, Sumatra, Singapore, Port Said, Naples and Paris. The critical scale is Bali, where they remain 9 months.

1931 Began publishing its "Impossible Interviews" in Vanity Fair.

1931 Illustrates "China" by Marc Chadourne.

1932 "Miguel Covarrubias: Pinturas balinesas", Valentine Gallery, New York.

1933 Gets a Guggenheim fellowship to make pictorical studies of Bali for one more year.

1934 Miguel and Rosa Covarrubias established in Bali, interpenetrating in Balinese culture.

1935 "Miguel Covarrubias", Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City

1935 Illustrates "Typee" by Herman Melville and "Mules and Men" of Zorah Neale Hurston.

1936 Vogue absorbed Vanity Fair, Covarrubias continues to work in the magazine with cartoons.

1936 Illustrates "Green Mansions" by William H. Hudson.

1937 Publish and illustrate "Island of Bali" includes photographs of Rosa Covarrubias, New York. Criticism is unanimous: The book is considered as a reference work and a success.

1938 Receives Award "Art Directors Club" for best magazine cover (surreal cover of Vogue, July 1, 1937)

1939 Exhibits at the "Golden Gate International Exposition" of San Francisco, 6 ethnographic atlases, that thoroughly describe the people, economy, art, flora and fauna, housing and communications of the Pacific.

1940 Get Guggenheim Fellowship for a year to continue the work of his book on the indigenous culture of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

1941 Relocation of maps to the San Francisco Museum of Natural History in New York.

1942 Returned to live in Mexico, illustrates "The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico" by Bernal Diaz del Castillo.

1946 Publish and illustrate "South Mexico."

1948 Illustrates "All Men are Brothers" by Shui Hu Chuan.

1954 Publish and illustrate "The Eagle, The Jaguar and The Serpent", first volume of the great anthropological series.

1956 Prepare the edition of the third volume of his great anthropological series on indigenous art in South America. At his death the manuscripts are lost.

1957 "Indian Art of Mexico and Central America": the second volume of his anthropological work was published posthumously.

1987 "Homenaje a Miguel Covarrubias", Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City