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The Cover
October 17, 2012

Twilight

JAMA. 2012;308(15):1506. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3269

Twilight (cover), by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), is a vision for the end of the world. An angry sun, like a malevolent eye or the barrel of a cosmic cannon, sinks into a supple mountain range; a funnel cloud sucks energy from the sun, and skeletal fragments of dead fish and automotive parts go ballistic. Overhanging clouds reflect the last rays of the day as a tiny airplane dives into a hot landing zone. Like Twilight, many of Siqueiros' landscapes are gloomy fantasies, but the reality was that he lived and worked in an apocalyptic age. The inspiration for paintings such as The Explosion of Hiroshima (1955) was the nuclear era that began with World War II and has continued through the Cold War to the present day. Siqueiros was an astute observer and at times an active participant in some of the 20th century's worst moments, and his personal view of the future presumed that the age of capitalism would one day soon be replaced by a new socialist order. In his mind, it truly was the end of the world. Siqueiros was a lifelong political activist who used art to engage his audience. He saw that the best way to reach large numbers of people from all walks of life was to paint murals in public buildings, so the mural became the art form that he preferred above all others. Gallery paintings, by contrast, struck him as snobbish and exclusionary. When Siqueiros did make easel paintings (he called them “transportable paintings”), he said they were studies that would sooner or later result in a mural.

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