Juan O’Gorman

Mexican architect and painter, born in Mexico City, the son of Irish parents. In the 1930s, however, he abandoned architecture for painting, and he is described by Edward Lucie-Smith as ‘the most interesting of the less acclaimed artists in the Mexican Muralist movement’ (Latin American Art of the 20th Century, 1993). O’Gorman’s work was strongly nationalistic and his anti-Fascist, anti-church frescos at Mexico City airport (1937–8) were destroyed in 1939 during a political swing to the right. In the 1950s he returned to architecture, now advocating a more ‘organic’ approach inspired in part by the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His most celebrated work is the Library of the National University in Mexico City (1951–3), in which a modern structural design is completely covered externally in mosaics of his own design symbolically representing the history of Mexican culture. O’Gorman committed suicide.

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