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Raul Anguiano, 90; Mexican Painter, Muralist and Teacher

Obituaries

January 16, 2006|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Raul Anguiano, eclectic Mexican painter, sculptor and muralist who worked with well-known post-revolutionary artists Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera, has died. He was 90.

Anguiano died Friday at Hospital Central Militar in Mexico City of heart problems. He had become ill in Los Angeles, where he had a second home in Huntington Beach, and asked his wife, Brigita, to take him home to Mexico.

The artist's varied work, seen frequently in Southern California, includes landscapes, raw cubist designs, tapestries, graceful portraiture and massive murals. He made lithographs, sculptures and ceramics along with his paintings and drawings, and was particularly praised for his ability to depict Mayans and other indigenous groups.

Anguiano's work was exhibited in more than 100 shows around the world, including a retrospective in Los Angeles for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. His creations remain in permanent collections in the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels, and others around the world.

Southern California murals by Anguiano can be seen at East Los Angeles College and the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana.

"Anguiano's strengths appear to be his talent for volumetric drawing and his affinity for Indian people," Times arts writer Suzanne Muchnic commented when his work was exhibited at East Los Angeles College in 1985. "He romanticizes them to the degree that he makes them monumental, self-contained and handsome, but romance rarely dissolves in sentimentality."

Anguiano excelled at portraying "the quiet dignity of earthy people in earthy colors," she wrote, " ... heroic figures who exude inner power and external beauty."

The artist became so adept at illustrating ethnic identity that the San Diego Museum of Man -- rarely an art venue -- featured his paintings in 1987.

"He captures the soul and ethnic identity of the Mexican people, particularly the women, better than anyone I know," Doug Sharon, director of the museum, told The Times. "It's haunting -- like a glimpse into the Mexican soul."

One of his larger works, "Creation of Man," is prominently displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

In 2002, while he was painting a 68-by-13-foot mural featuring Orozco, Siqueiros and Rivera, Anguiano taught East Los Angeles College art students the history of the muralists whose sweeping style was rooted in Mexico's bloody 1910-1917 revolution.

"This is a universal language. Art is the way that I have always expressed myself to the world," Anguiano told The Times as he worked on the mural for the campus. "These are my friends and alumni of my generation. This is not just a tribute to Mexican art. It is a tribute to the people that made Mexican art what it is today."

During the project, Anguiano surrounded himself with art students, stopping to give them tips and seeking their advice.

"It's incredible just being here," Patricia Morales had told The Times. "Just watching him is an experience in itself, but he lets us critique him also. He says it is better to have more than one set of eyes."

Anguiano illustrated several books and lectured throughout Mexico, the United States and Europe. A consummate teacher customarily addressed as "Maestro," he taught for decades at both the Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City and the University of Mexico City.

More accustomed to university-level students, he agreed to teach third-graders in the Santa Ana Unified School District during the summer of 2000.

"I don't often teach kids that young, ... but they were happy and they make me happy," the then-octogenarian told The Times.

In 1999 and 2000, Anguiano painted "The Mayas: Magic, Science and the History of the Maya," a mural for the Bowers Museum. The mural was a memorial to his late friend and fellow teacher, Richard Barrutia.

"The images are taken from Bonampak, a ceremonial center built in the 7th to 9th centuries in the Chiapas," Anguiano told The Times, as he painted in full view of museum visitors.

He had sketched the images in 1949 during an expedition to the archeological site. The artist wrote a book about the experience, "Expedicion a Bonampak" first published in 1959.

Born Feb. 26, 1915, in Guadalajara, Anguiano was the eldest of 10 children of a shoemaker. He began drawing as a child and attended the city's Free School of Painting when he was 12. By the time he was 17 he was copying masters and teaching.

In 1934, Anguiano moved to Mexico City where he soon met Rivera, became a founding member of the Popular Graphics Workshop and began teaching at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Information on survivors other than his wife was not immediately available.

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