Diego Rivera Life and Art Periods

"When art is true, it is one with nature. This is the secret of primitive art and also of the art of the masters—Michelangelo, Cézanne, Seurat, and Renoir. The secret of my best work is that it is Mexican.."

SYNOPSIS

Widely regarded as the most influential Mexican artist of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera was truly a larger-than-life figure who spent significant periods of his career in Europe and the U.S., in addition to his native Mexico. Together with David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, Rivera was among the leading members and founders of the Mexican Muralist movement. Deploying a style informed by disparate sources such as European modern masters and Mexico's pre-Columbian heritage, and executed in the technique of Italian fresco painting, Rivera handled major themes appropriate to the scale of his chosen art form: social inequality; the relationship of nature, industry, and technology; and the history and fate of Mexico. More than half a century after his death, Rivera is still among the most revered figures in Mexico, celebrated for both his role in the country's artistic renaissance and re-invigoration of the mural genre as well as for his outsized persona.

KEY IDEAS

Rivera made the painting of murals his primary method, appreciating the large scale and public accessibility—the opposite of what he regarded as the elitist character of paintings in galleries and museums. Rivera used the walls of universities and other public buildings throughout Mexico and the United States as his canvas, creating an extraordinary body of work that revived interest in the mural as an art form and helped reinvent the concept of public art in the U.S. by paving the way for the Federal Art Program of the 1930s.
Mexican culture and history constituted the major themes and influence on Rivera's art. Rivera, who amassed an enormous collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, created panoramic portrayals of Mexican history and daily life, from its Mayan beginnings up to the Mexican Revolution and post-Revolutionary present, in a style largely indebted to pre-Columbian culture.
A lifelong Marxist who belonged to the Mexican Communist Party and had important ties to the Soviet Union, Rivera is an exemplar of the socially committed artist. His art expressed his outspoken commitment to left-wing political causes, depicting such subjects as the Mexican peasantry, American workers, and revolutionary figures like Emiliano Zapata and Lenin. At times, his outspoken, uncompromising leftist politics collided with the wishes of wealthy patrons and aroused significant controversy that emanated inside and outside the art world.
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DIEGO RIVERA BIOGRAPHY

Childhood

Diego Rivera and his fraternal twin brother (who died at the age of two) were born in 1886 in Guanajuato, a small town in Mexico. His parents were both teachers; his mother was a devoted Catholic mestiza (part European, part Indian) and his father, a liberal criollo (Mexican of European descent). Diego's exceptional artistic talent was obvious to his parents from an early age, and they set aside a room in the house for him in which he painted his first "murals" on the walls. When Diego was six, his family moved from Guanajuato to Mexico City, to avoid the tensions caused by his father's role as co-editor of the opposition newspaper El Democrata. Once in Mexico City, his mother decided to send Diego to the Carpantier Catholic College.

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Early training

By the age of ten, Rivera decided he wanted to attend art school, despite his father's desire that he pursue a military career. By the age of twelve, Rivera was enrolled full-time at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts, where he received training modeled on conservative European academies; one of his painting teachers had studied with Ingres, and another required Rivera to copy classical sculpture. Trained in traditional techniques in perspective, color, and the plein air method, Rivera also received instruction from Gerardo Murillo, one of the ideological forces behind the Mexican artistic revolution and a staunch defender of indigenous crafts and Mexican culture. With Murillo's support, Rivera was awarded a travel grant to Europe in 1906.

In Spain, Rivera studied the work of El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, and the Flemish masters that he saw in the Prado Museum, and which provided him with a strong foundation for his later painting. At the studio of the Spanish realist painter Eduardo Chicharro, Rivera became acquainted with the leading figures of the Madrid avant-garde, including the Dada poet Ramon Gomez de la Serna and the writer Ramon Valle-Inclan.

In 1909 Rivera traveled to Paris and Belgium with Valle-Inclan, where he met the Russian painter Angelina Beloff who would be Rivera's partner for twelve years. Returning to Mexico City in 1910, Rivera was offered his first exhibition at the San Carlos Academy. Rivera's return coincided with the onset of the Mexican Revolution, which lasted until 1917. Despite the political upheaval, Rivera's exhibit was a great success, and the money earned from the sale of his work enabled him to return to Europe.

Diego Rivera Biography

Back in Paris, Rivera became a fervent adherent of Cubism, which he regarded as a truly revolutionary form of painting. However, Rivera's difficult relationships with the other members of the movement came to a tumultuous end following a violent incident with the art critic Pierre Reverdy, resulting in a definitive break with the circle and the termination of his friendships with Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Leger, Gino Severini, and Jacques Lipchitz.

Rivera subsequently shifted his focus to the work of Cézanne and Neoclassical artists such as Ingres, as well as a rediscovery of figural painting. Receiving another grant to travel to Italy to study classical art, Rivera copied Etruscan, Byzantine, and Renaissance artworks, and developed a particular interest in the frescoes of the 14th and 15th centuries of the Italian Renaissance. In 1921, following the appointment of Jose Vasconcelos as the new Mexican Minister of Education, Rivera returned to his home country, leaving behind his partner, Angelina Beloff, as well as Marevna Stebelska, another Russian artist, with whom Rivera had a daughter, Marika, in 1919.

Mature period

Rivera returned to Mexico with a reawakened artistic perspective, deeply influenced by his study of classical and ancient art. There, he was afforded the opportunity to visit and study many pre-Columbian archaeological sites under the auspices of the Ministry of Education's art program. Yet his first mural painting, produced for the National Preparatory School and entitled Creation(1922), shows a strong influence of Western art. Rivera soon became involved with local politics through his membership in the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers and his entry into the Mexican Communist Party in 1922. At this time, he painted frescoes in the Ministry of Education in Mexico City and the National School of Agriculture in Chapingo. During the latter project, he became involved with the Italian photographer Tina Modotti, who had modeled for his murals; the affair prompted him to separate from his wife at the time, Lupe Marin.

Diego Rivera Photo with Frida Kahlo

In 1927, Rivera visited the Soviet Union to attend the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, an experience he found extremely inspiring. He spent nine months in Moscow, teaching monumental painting at the School of Fine Arts. Upon his return to Mexico, he married the painter Frida Kahlo, who was twenty-one years his junior, and became the director of the Academy of San Carlos. His radical ideas about education earned him enemies among the conservative faculty and student body; at the same time, he was expelled from the Communist Party for his cooperation with the government. Politically cornered, Rivera found support in the American ambassador to Mexico, Dwight W. Morrow, who commissioned him to paint a mural in the Cortes Palace in Cuernavaca depicting the history of that city. A great admirer of Rivera's work, Morrow offered the artist the opportunity to travel to the United States, all expenses paid. Rivera remained in the U.S. for four years. There, the always-prolific artist worked around the clock, painting murals in San Francisco, New York, and Detroit, celebrating the powerful forces of unions, education, industry, and art. In New York, he met with enormous popularity (his one-man show at The Museum of Modern Art had fifty-seven thousand visitors) as well as controversy (some of his murals were threatened with physical harm). Rivera's American adventure ended in 1933, when John D. Rockefeller, Jr., ordered the destruction of the mural he had commissioned for the lobby of Rockefeller Center, Man at the Crossroads, because of both Rivera's unwillingness to eliminate the portrait of Lenin and for what the Rockefeller family regarded as an offensive portrait of David Rockefeller.

Later Years and Death

After Rivera returned to Mexico, he and Kahlo shared a house-studio in a beautiful Bauhaus-style building in Mexico City that can still be visited today. From 1929 until 1945, Rivera worked on and off in the National Palace, creating some of his most famous murals there. In 1937, he and Kahlo helped Leon Trotsky - a major Russian Communist leader - and his wife obtain political exile; the Trotskys lived with Rivera and Kahlo for two years in the "Blue House" in the suburb of Coyoacan. Two years later, Rivera and Kahlo divorced, although they remarried a year later in San Francisco, while Rivera was working for the Golden Gate International Exposition. They would remain together until Kahlo's death in 1954.

During his last years, Diego continued to paint murals, sometimes working on portable panels. He also produced a large number of oil portraits, usually of the Mexican bourgeoisie, children, or American tourists. These works are not always remarkable, and they are often infused with a kitschy aesthetic reminiscent of Pop art. However, they were very successful during his lifetime, and provided a way for the artist to acquire more pre-Columbian objects for his spectacular collection. Today, his collection is housed in the Anahuacalli Museum, a building inspired by the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan and designed by Rivera himself.

Diego Rivera Painting

Widowed and already sick with cancer, Rivera married for the third time in 1955 to Emma Hurtado, his art dealer and rights holder since 1946. Following a trip to the Soviet Union made in the hope of curing his cancer, Rivera died in Mexico in 1957 at age seventy-one. His wish to have his ashes mingled with those of Kahlo was not honored, and he was buried in the Rotunda of Famous Men of Mexico.

LEGACY

Rivera saw the artist as a craftsman at the service of the community, who, as such, needed to deploy an easily accessible visual language. This concept greatly influenced American public art, helping give rise to governmental initiatives such as Franklin Roosevelt's Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, whose artists depicted scenes from American life on public buildings. With his socially and politically expansive artistic vision, narrative focus, and use of symbolic imagery, Rivera inspired such diverse artists as Ben Shahn, Thomas Hart Benton, and Jackson Pollock.

Original content written by The Art Story Contributors
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DIEGO RIVERA QUOTES

"... (Cubism) was a revolutionary movement, questioning everything that had previously been said and done in art. It held nothing sacred. As the old word would soon blow itself apart, never to be the same again, so Cubism broke down the forms as they had been seen for centuries, and was creating out of the fragments new forms, new objects, new patters and—ultimately—new worlds."

"All inner doubt, the conflict that had so tortured me in Europe, had disappeared. I painted as naturally as I breathed, spoke or sweated. My style was born like a child, in a moment, with the difference that this birth took place at the end of a painful, 35-year gestation."
(On his return to Mexico in 1921)

"The marching mass... had the floating motion of a snake, but it was more awesome... At the head of this winding, undulating creature mass was a group in the form of an enormous locomotive. A big red star and five picks were over the "cylinder" of the "boiler". The "headlight" was an enormous inscription between two flags: THE UNIONS ARE THE LOCOMOTIVES MOVING THE TRAIN OF THE REVOLUTION. THE CORRECT REVOLUTIONARY THEORY IS THE STEEL TRACK."
(On the 10th Anniversary of the October Revolution, Celebration in the Red Square of Moscow in 1927)

"I know now that he who hopes to be universal in his art must plant in his own soil. Great art is like a tree, which grows in a particular place and has a trunk, leaves, blossoms, boughs, fruit, and roots of its own. The more native art is, the more it belongs to the entire world, because taste is rooted in nature. When art is true, it is one with nature. This is the secret of primitive art and also of the art of the masters—Michelangelo, Cézanne, Seurat, and Renoir. The secret of my best work is that it is Mexican."

Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera Influences

Interactive chart with Diego Rivera's main influencers, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.

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Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Paul Cézanne
Henri Rousseau
Henri Rousseau
Henri Rousseau was a French self-taught painter. His most famous works, done in his characteristic flat figurative style, show surreal and dream-like scenes in primitive or natural settings.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Henri Rousseau
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Picasso dominated European painting in the first half of the last century, and remains perhaps the century's most important, prolifically inventive, and versatile artist. Alongside Georges Braque, he pioneered Cubism. He also made significant contributions to Surrealist painting and media such as collage, welded sculpture, and ceramics.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Pablo Picasso
André Breton
André Breton
André Breton, author of the 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, was an influential theorizer of both Dada and Surrealism. Born in France, he emigrated to New York during World War II, where he greatly influenced the Abstract Expressionists.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information André Breton
Gerardo Murillo
Gerardo Murillo
Gerardo Murillo (aka Dr. Atl, the name he used to sign his works) was a Mexican painter, writer, and Socialist political activist. His work focused mainly on panoramic landscapes and mythological subjects, painted in the tradition of the Mexican Muralists. For most of his career Murillo was a key fixture in Mexican art, helping to promote the work of such artists as Diego Rivera and Francisco de la Torre.

Modern Art Information Gerardo Murillo
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky was a Russian revolutionary and Marxist theorist. In October 1917, Trotksy and Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik Revolution that eventually helped form the Soviet Union. In the years that followed, Trotsky founded and led the Red Army, and was an original member of the Politburo, the Soviet governing body. As a leading leftist and political contrarian, Trotksy was eventually banished from Russia and assassinated on the order of Premier Joseph Stalin, his biggest political and ideological rival.

Modern Art Information Leon Trotsky
Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire was a French writer and art critic who in the early twentieth century was a member of the avant-garde group of artists based in the Montparnasse community of Paris, which included Picasso, André Breton and Henri Rousseau. He is credited with coining the term "Surrealism."

Modern Art Information Guillaume Apollinaire
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism refers to a number of styles that emerged in reaction to Impressionism in the 1880s. The movement encompassed Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism before ceding to Fauvism around 1905. Its artists turned away from effects of light and atmosphere to explore new avenues such as color theory and personal feeling, often using colors and forms in intense and expressive ways.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Post-Impressionism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Cubism
Surrealism
Surrealism
Perhaps the most influential avant-garde movement of the century, Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Much influenced by Freud, they believed that the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Surrealism
Pre-Columbian Art
Pre-Columbian Art
Pre-Columbian Art is a term that applies to all art from Mexico, Central and South America created before these areas were colonized by Europe ("before Columbus") in the sixteenth century. These art forms cover vast media and subject matter. The uniting factor among most works is that they were discovered in tombs, which suggests a purpose of paying tribute to fallen leaders, accompanying them as they enter the afterlife.

Modern Art Information Pre-Columbian Art
Mexican Muralists
Mexican Muralists
The Mexican Muralists were active in the first half of the twentieth century, especially in the 1930s. The large-scale works, executed in Mexico and the US, were frequently done in a figurative, allegorical style, and dealt with political, social, and radical themes.

Modern Art Information Mexican Muralists
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter whose works combine realism, indigenous cultural tropes, and Surrealist elements. Famous for her symbolic self-portraits, she was also the wife of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

Modern Art Information Frida Kahlo
Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero
Fernando Botero is a Columbian painter, whose work is characterized by exaggerated figurative depictions of current and historical events, often infused with irony and/or harsh political criticism. Painting in a distinct style known as "Boterismo," the artist often focuses on situational portraiture and depicts his subjects as disproportionately fat almost in spite of context.

Modern Art Information Fernando Botero
Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo
Rufino Tamayo was a twentieth-century Zapotecan Indian painter from Mexico. Tamayo was known as an artistic rebel in his day. While his contemporaries, such as Diego Rivera, painted large murals charged with leftist politics and revolutionary zeal, Tamayo painted in a more avant-garde style, inspired by Cubism, Fauvism and Post-Impressionism.

Modern Art Information Rufino Tamayo
Ben Shahn
Ben Shahn
Ben Shahn was a Lithuanian-born American artist and painter. Inspired by the European Expressionists and Fauves, as well as muralists like Diego Rivera, Shahn's Social Realist paintings and murals reflected his leftist political views, focusing on themes like urban life, immigration and organized labor.

Modern Art Information Ben Shahn
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Jackson Pollock
Tina Modotti
Tina Modotti
Tina Modotti was a twentieth-century Italian photographer, actress, model and political activist. She is perhaps best known for documenting the artistic practices of Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, as well as for her photographic work with architectural interiors, landscapes and urban scenes. Modotti was also an active member of the Mexican Communist Party. Her untimely death from heart failure at age 42 is something that remains highly suspicious.

Modern Art Information Tina Modotti
David Alfaro Siqueiros
David Alfaro Siqueiros
Jose David Alfaro Siquieros was a Mexican social realist painter, an active member of the Mexican Communist Party, and one of three artists - along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco - who gave rise to the Mexican Mural Renaissance in the early twentieth century. Siqueiros's large-scale fresco murals are defined by their anti-Fascist politics and near expressionistic aesthetic.

Modern Art Information David Alfaro Siqueiros
Bertram Wolfe
Bertram Wolfe
Bertram Wolfe was a Jewish-American writer and former Communist activist (eventually opposing the Party because of Stalin), best known for his biographies on such subjects as Lenin, Trotsky and Diego Rivera. A Brooklyn native, Wolfe was a founding member of the Communist Party of America, and later became a delegate in Mexico for that nation's Communist party.

Modern Art Information Bertram Wolfe
Pop Art
Pop Art
British artists of the 1950s were the first to make popular culture the dominant subject of their art, and this idea became an international phenomenon in the 1960s. But the Pop art movement is most associated with New York, and artists such as Andy Warhol, who broke with the private concerns of the Abstract Expressionists, and turned to themes which touched on public life and mass society.
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Jose Clemente Orozco
Jose Clemente Orozco
Jose Clemente Orozco was a Mexican social realist painter who is best known for his large-scale murals of human toil, suffering, and the industrial age.

Modern Art Information Jose Clemente Orozco
Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Georges Braque was a modern French painter who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed analytic Cubism and Cubist collage in the early twentieth century.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Georges Braque
Juan Gris
Juan Gris
Juan Gris was a Spanish painter and sculptor, and one of the few pioneers of Cubism. Along with Matisse, Léger, Braque and Picasso, Gris was among the elite visual artists working in early-twentieth-century France.

Modern Art Information Juan Gris
Fernard Léger
Fernard Léger
Influenced by Cubism and Futurism, the French painter Fernand Léger developed a style of conical and geometric forms with mechanically smooth edges. Often colorful and punctuated by circles and patterns, his paintings range from still lifes and figures to completely abstract compositions.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Fernard Léger
Gino Severini
Gino Severini
Gino Severini was an Italian painter and a leading member of the Futurist movement. He was associated with neo-classicism and the pictorial return to order in the decade after the First World War. During his career he worked in a variety of media, including mosaic and fresco.

Modern Art Information Gino Severini
Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz
The Lithuanian-born Jacques Lipchitz moved to Paris in 1909, becoming a well-known Cubist sculptor and important member of the Ecole de Paris. Amid the German occupation of Paris during World War II, Lipchitz fled France for the United States in 1941, among the numerous artists so helped by Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee.

Modern Art Information Jacques Lipchitz
Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism encompasses several distinct movements in the arts and architecture during the mid-1700s to the late 1800s that drew specifically on ancient Western cultures for inspiration. Looking back to the arts of Greece and Rome for ideal models and forms, both human and structural, Neo-Classicism was a category for literature and music as well as the visual arts. Jacques-Louis David and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres were the most iconic French Neo-Classic painters.

Modern Art Information Neo-Classicism
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum has become the home for some of the greatest works of avant-garde painting, sculpture, film and multi-media art in the world. While MoMA remains true to its roots as a place where new styles of art can circulate, its permanent collection is widely considered the most impressive and diverse assortment of Modern art to ever exist, ranging from late-nineteenth-century van Goghs, Monets and Gauguins to works produced in the present day.
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Bauhaus
Bauhaus
Bauhaus is a style associated with the Bauhaus school, an extremely influential art and design school in Weimar Germany that emphasized functionality and efficiency of design. Its famous faculty - including Joseph Albers and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - generally rejected distinctions between the fine and applied arts, and encouraged major advances in industrial design.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Bauhaus
Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart Benton was an American painter whose rural and industrial subjects, grand-scale murals, and figurative style were hallmarks of American Regionalism.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Thomas Hart Benton
View of Toledo
View of Toledo

Title: View of Toledo (1912)

Artwork Description & Analysis: A stunning tribute to two of Rivera's favorite masters—El Greco and Paul Cézanne— View of Toledo exemplifies Rivera's tendency to unite traditional and more modern approaches in his work. The landscape is a reworking of the famous 1597 landscape painting by El Greco, whose work Rivera studied during his time in Spain; Rivera's version even deploys the same viewpoint as the Spanish Old Master. At the same time, the subdued palette, flattened forms, and unconventional use of perspective suggest the artist's reverence for Cézanne, his L'Estaque landscapes. This artwork also documents the beginning of Rivera's Cubist phase.


Oil on canvas - Fundacion Amparo R. de Espinosa, Puebla

Zapatista Landscape –The Guerrilla
Zapatista Landscape –The Guerrilla

Title: Zapatista Landscape –The Guerrilla (1915)

Artwork Description & Analysis: In this work, painted during Rivera's sojourn in Paris, the artist deployed Cubism—a style he once characterized as a "revolutionary movement"—to depict the Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, here seen with attributes such as a rifle, bandolier, hat, and sarape. The work's collage-like approach is suggestive of the Synthetic rather than Analytic phase of Cubism. Executed at the height of the Mexican Revolution, the painting—later described by its creator as "probably the most faithful expression of the Mexican mood that I have ever achieved"—manifests the increasing politicization of Rivera's work.


Oil on canvas - Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City

Motherhood –Angelina and the Child
Motherhood –Angelina and the Child

Title: Motherhood –Angelina and the Child (1916)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Motherhood is a modernizing, Cubist treatment on a perennial art historical theme: the Madonna and Child. In this painting, Angelina Beloff, Rivera's common-law wife for twelve years, holds their newborn son, Diego, who died of influenza just months after his birth. The painting beautifully illustrates Rivera's unique approach to Cubism, which rejected the somber, monochromatic palette deployed by artists such as Pablo Picasso or Georges Braque in favor of vivid colors more reminiscent of those used by Italian Futurist artists like Gino Severini or Giacomo Balla.


Oil on canvas - Museo de Arte Alvar y Carmen T. de Carrillo Gil, Mexico

Creation
Creation

Title: Creation (1922–23)

Artwork Description & Analysis: His first commission from Mexican Minister of Education Jose Vasconcelos, Creation is the first of Rivera's many murals and a touchstone for Mexican Muralism. Treating, in the artist's words, "the origins of the sciences and the arts, a kind of condensed version of human history"—the work is a complex allegorical composition, combining Mexican, Judeo-Christian, and Hellenic motifs. It depicts a number of allegorical figures—among them Faith, Hope, Charity, Education, and Science—all seemingly represented with unmistakably Mexican features. The figure of Song was modeled on Guadalupe Marin, who later became Rivera's second wife. Through such features of the work as the use of gold leaf and the monumental, elongated figures, the mural reflects the importance of Italian and Byzantine art for Rivera's development.


Fresco in encaustic with gold leaf - Museo de San Idelfonso, Mexico City

Man, Controller of the Universe (Man in the Time Machine)
Man, Controller of the Universe (Man in the Time Machine)

Title: Man, Controller of the Universe (Man in the Time Machine) (1934)

Artwork Description & Analysis: As its title indicates, the painting is a powerful representation of the human race "at the crossroads" of reinforcing or competing forces and ideologies: science, industrialization, Communism, and capitalism. Revealing Rivera's dedication to Communism and other left-wing causes, the painting has at its center a heroic worker surrounded by four propeller-like blades; it contrasts a mocking portrayal of society women, seen on the left, with a sympathetic portrayal of Lenin surrounded by proletarians of different races, on the right. Commissioned by the Mexican government, this painting is a smaller but nearly identical recreation of Man at the Crossroads, the Rockefeller-commissioned mural for the soon-to-be-completed Rockefeller Center. The New York City mural was destroyed a year before this work, amid controversy over Rivera's portrait of Lenin and his subsequent refusal to remove the image.


Fresco - Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City

Portrait of Lupe Marin
Portrait of Lupe Marin

Title: Portrait of Lupe Marin (1938)

Artwork Description & Analysis: In this magnificent portrait of his second wife from whom he separated the previous decade, Rivera again reveals his profound artistic debt to the European painting tradition. Utilizing a device deployed by such artists as Velazquez, Manet, and Ingres—and which Rivera would himself use in his 1949 portrait of his daughter Ruth—he portrays his subject partially in reflection through his depiction of a mirror in the background. The painting's coloration and the subject's expressive hands call to mind another artistic hero, El Greco, while its composition and structure suggest the art of Cézanne.


Oil on canvas - Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City

The Detroit Industry Fresco Cycle
The Detroit Industry Fresco Cycle

Title: The Detroit Industry Fresco Cycle (1932–33)

Artwork Description & Analysis: The twenty-seven panels comprising this cycle are a tribute to Detroit's manufacturing base and workforce of the 1930s and constitute the finest example of fresco painting in the United States. Here, Rivera takes large-scale industrial production as the subject of the work, depicting machinery with exceptional attention to detail and artistry. The overall iconography of the cycle reflects the duality concept of Aztec culture via the two sides of industry: the one beneficial to society (vaccines) and the other harmful (lethal gas). Other dichotomies recur in this work, as Rivera contrasts tradition and progress, industry and nature, and North and South America. He uses multiple allegories based on the history of the continents, as well as contemporary events to build a dramatic artwork.


Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park
Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park

Title: Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park (1947–48)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Rivera revisits the theme of Mexican history in this crowded, dynamic composition, replete with meaningful portraits, historical figures, and symbolic elements. Conceived as a festive pictorial autobiography, Rivera represents himself at the center as a child holding hands with the most celebrated of Guadalupe Posada's creations: the skeletal figure popularly known as "Calavera Catrina." He represents himself joining this quintessential symbol of Mexican popular culture and is shown to be protected by his wife, the painter Frida Kahlo, who holds in her hand the yin-yang symbol, the Eastern equivalent of Aztec duality.
The mural combines the artist's own childhood experiences with the historical events and sites that took place in Mexico City's Alameda Park, such as the crematorium for the victims of the Inquisition during the times of Cortes, the U.S. army's encampment in the park in 1848, and the major political demonstrations of the nineteenth century. As in many previous works, Rivera juxtaposes historical events and figures, deliberately rejecting the Western tradition of linear narrative.


Transportable fresco - Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Mexico City

Bibliography
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggests some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.