Francisco Zuniga (1912-1998) was born in San Jose Costa Rica in 1912. As a young man Zuniga learned to carve and paint polychrome religious imagery while working in the workshop of his father Manuel Maria Zuniga. Zuniga wasn’t satisfied with this kind of
Mexican sculptor, printmaker, draughtsman and teacher of Costa Rican birth. He studied sculpture under his father, Manuel Maria Zuniga, in San Jose, Costa Rica, and after his arrival in Mexico City in 1936 at the Escuela de Talla Directa under the direction of Guillermo Ruiz (1895-1964) and Oliverio Martinez.
Martinez, together with the painter Manuel Rodriguez Lozano, helped motivate his concept of form. Other lasting influences came from his encounter with Aztec sculpture and from the work of other sculptors, such as Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol and even Henry Moore, whose work, like his, was based primarily on the human body. Throughout his career Zuniga was especially devoted to the female form, naked or clothed.
The monumental character of Zuniga's sculpture is evident not only in public commissioned works, such as the stone reliefs of the Allegory of the Earth and Communications (1953-4) at the Secreta ria de Comunicaciones in Mexico City, but also in sculptures conceived for more private and intimate settings, for example "Seated Woman from Juchitan" (bronze, 1974; Washington, DC, Hirshhorn Museum).
In 1959, in works such as "Standing Women" (bronze; Mexico City, Museum of Modern Art), he moved from the non-academic naturalism of his early style, which was still linked to the 19th century, to a more realistic idiom, taking as his models the indigenous women of south-eastern Mexico, whom he represented standing or seated, singly, in pairs or in a group. They are women with large bodies, both heavily built and scrawny, all seemingly caught in a violent transition from youth to old age. They inhabit a dramatic silence in which there is no communication, and occasionally they appear with the ancestral dignity of their race, as in "Woman from Yalalag" (bronze, 1975; Monclova, Bib. Pape). Only in exceptional cases do men appear.
He availed himself of a variety of methods and materials, modeling in clay and plaster and also working in Carrara marble, alabaster and other kinds of stone; his preferred medium was cast bronze.
Drawing served Zuniga as an essential basis for his sculpture and for his prolific production as a lithographer. His prints, some printed in black and others in color, presented the same subject-matter as his sculptures, with an equivalent emphasis on the volumetric treatment of female figures. Zuniga, who as a teacher trained many outstanding Mexican sculptors, became a naturalized Mexican citizen in 1986.