8. Societal Structures

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Works of art are great storytellers—they transport us to distant lands, take us back in time, and help us study history from different perspectives. It was often the case in the past that those with access, wealth, and power would create narratives about certain people, places and events. It was common practice to commission artists to capture the likeness of political figures, or the aristocracy, immortalizing their position in the social structure of the time.


Having the means to employ artists and establish these relationships meant that the stories of other members of society were not depicted, documented, and celebrated. Take a moment to view the portrait of General Santa Anna by Luis Zapico displayed here. Believed to be a posthumous portrait, it memorializes his political and military accomplishments in the traditional manner of 19th century portraiture. 


Mexican artist Francisco Zúñiga on the other hand, made a point throughout his career to depict indigenous people, the underprivileged and disadvantaged. His work La Comida, which appears here in juxtaposition with Zapico’s painting, invites us to reflect on how visual narratives are constructed and conveyed, and to consider their legacy from a critical perspective. 


Works by Ramiro Gómez and Kathe Kollwitz, also on view, highlight the crucial role of workers in society by focusing on the dignity of labor and capturing anonymous individuals who may otherwise remain overlooked. Where else do you see the connections between the present and the past in this gallery?