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A painting showing buildings on fire.

The painting shows in the foreground a field of rough-edged gray objects outlined in black. Behind on the right is a large tunnel like structure with a jagged edged opening. On the left side of the painting is a side view of a three-story building. Between the building the tunnel the area is filled with an amorphous mass of red, yellow, and orange which rises up and spreads across the top of the picture plane.

Gallery Text

Siqueiros was among the most politically and aesthetically radical artists of his generation, best known along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco as one of the “big three” Mexican muralists. An ardent communist, Siqueiros sought to advance a new form of revolutionary art using modern industrial materials and techniques. Conceiving of art as an effective propaganda weapon, he was a leader in leftist campaigns to create ideological art for the masses. He famously organized the artist collective Experimental Workshop while in Manhattan during 1936, and it was in this context that he produced the technically daring and deeply affecting apocalyptic landscape seen here. This work is among a group of social allegories the artist made in direct response to the rise of Fascism and escalation of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). Siqueiros depicts a catastrophic inferno, using an ancient site near Ctesiphon in Iraq as a searing indictment of the cost of imperial aggression. Known as Taq-i Kisra, the monumental arch and surrounding ruins are the remains of a palace of the Sasanian Empire (224–651), which fell to Muslim armies in the early seventh century. During World War I, the Ottomans inflicted a massive defeat on the British at this often bloodily contested site.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
David Alfaro Siqueiros, Mexican (Chihuahua, Mexico 1896 - 1974 Cuernavaca, Mexico)
The End of the World
Other Titles
Original Language Title: El Fin del Mundo
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States, New York, New York
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1320, Modern and Contemporary Art, Social Realism
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Physical Descriptions

Oil, pyroxylin and ceramic on panel
61 x 76 cm (24 x 29 15/16 in.)
framed: 72.7 × 88.3 × 6.4 cm (28 5/8 × 34 3/4 × 2 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: u.r., in black paint: Siqueiros N.Y. - 9 - 1936


Recorded Ownership History
Artist, created 1936, sold; to Dr. Gregory Zilboorg, New York (1939-1959), by inheritance; to Matthew S. Zilboorg, S. Burlington, VT (1959-1998), sold [through Andrea Marquit Fine Arts, Boston], to; [Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, New York]; sold; to Private Collection, New York (1998-2010), sold [through Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, New York]; to Frank Giustra, Vancouver, BC (2010-2014), sold [through Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, New York]; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2014.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. G. David Thompson, in memory of his son, G. David Thompson, Jr., Class of 1958, by exchange and the Richard Norton Memorial Fund
© David Alfaro Siqueiros / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Dem Kollegen an die Kehle, Der Spiegel (Hamburg, Germany, 1995), p. 278, ill. (color)
  • Jurgen Harten, Siqueiros / Pollock, Pollock / Siqueiros, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and DuMont (Cologne, 1995), pp. 80-81, ill. (color)
  • Olivier Debroise, Mari Carmen Ramírez, and James D. Oles, Portrait of a Decade: David Alfaro Siqueiros 1930-1940, exh. cat., Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico, 1997), p. 178
  • Anthony D. White, Siqueiros: Biography of a Revolutionary Artist, BookSurge Publishing (2008), pp. 183-184
  • Irene Herner, "Siqueiros and Surrealism?", Journal of Surrealism and the Americas (2009), 3, 1-2, 107-127, p. 122
  • Irene Herner, Siqueiros: From Paradise to Utopia, Editorial Miguel Ángel Porrúa (Distrito Federal, Mexico, 2010), pp. 173-177, ill. (color)

Exhibition History

  • Siqueiros / Pollock, Pollock / Siqueiros, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 09/30/1995 - 12/03/1995
  • Collaborations: Friends and Colleagues in the New York Studios, Andrea Marquit Fine Art, 03/01/1996 - 04/30/1996
  • Portrait of a Decade: David Alfaro Siqueiros 1930-1940, Museo Nacional de Arte, 11/28/1996 - 02/16/1997; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 03/08/1997 - 05/11/1997; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 06/01/1997 - 07/22/1997; Whitechapel Art Gallery, 09/01/1997 - 12/31/1997
  • Pollock, Orozco, Siqueiros, Joan T. Washburn Gallery, 01/21/1998 - 02/28/1998
  • 32Q: 1320 Social Realism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 10/05/2016; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/30/2017 - 01/01/2050
  • Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 10/20/2016 - 01/08/2017

Verification Level

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