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Francisco Zuniga

Francisco Zúñiga (Mexican, 1912–1998) was a Costa Rican-born Mexican painter and sculptor. Zuñiga studied drawing, sculpture, and engraving at the School of Fine Arts in San Jose, and later studied stone carving in Mexico City, where he became fascinated with the native peoples of Latin America. He began working with muralist Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, and became a teacher at the influential school La Esmeralda, the National School of Painting, Sculpture, and Printmaking, where he remained until his retirement in 1970.

In the 1940s, The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York acquired several of his works. He also co-founded the Sociedad Mexicana de Escultores and the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana. During the 1950s, Zuñiga executed a number of works for public monuments, focusing on large-scale reliefs, many of which incorporated Mayan influences. In 1958, he received the first prize in sculpture from the Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts. However, beginning in the 1960s, he began focusing more on his own studio projects.

He is best known for his sculptures of women, as well as his focus on themes of motherhood. His massive works were primarily executed in onyx or cast in bronze, and fused classical sculptural methods with indigenous archetypes. His paintings and drawings also showed Western influences, but maintained a clear connection to Pre-Hispanic art.

His numerous awards included an Acquisition Prize at the 1971 Biennial of Open Air Sculpture of Middleheim in Belgium, and he was named an Academic of the Accademia delle Arte e del Lavoro in Parma, Italy. He also won the Elías Sourasky Prize in Mexico, the Kataro Takamura Prize at the 1984 Sculpture Biennial in Japan, and the Premio Nacional de Arte in 1992. Major solo shows held during his career included a retrospective at the Museo de Arte Moderno in 1969, and a tribute to his work at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico in 1994. His works are part of the permanent collections of the San Diego Museum of Art, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City.

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