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Artists Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera Photo

Diego Rivera

Mexican Painter and Muralist

Movements and Styles: Mexican Muralism, Social Realism

Born: December 8, 1886 - Guanajuato, Mexico

Died: November 24, 1957 - Mexico City, Mexico

Diego Rivera Timeline


"... (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."
Diego Rivera
"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."
Diego Rivera
"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."
Diego Rivera
"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

"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 Signature


Widely regarded as the most influential Mexican artist of the 20th 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 José 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.


Diego Rivera Photo


Diego Rivera and his fraternal twin brother (who died at the age of two) were born in 1886 in Guanajuato, 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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Diego Rivera Biography Continues

Important Art by Diego Rivera

The below artworks are the most important by Diego Rivera - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

View of Toledo (1912)
Artwork Images

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 (1915)
Artwork Images

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 (1916)
Artwork Images

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

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Diego Rivera
Interactive chart with Diego Rivera's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart


Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Henri RousseauHenri Rousseau
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
André BretonAndré Breton

Personal Contacts

Gerardo MurilloGerardo Murillo
Leon TrotskyLeon Trotsky
Guillaume ApollinaireGuillaume Apollinaire
Frida KahloFrida Kahlo


Pre-Columbian ArtPre-Columbian Art
Mexican MuralismMexican Muralism

Influences on Artist
Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera
Years Worked: 1906 - 1957
Influenced by Artist


Fernando BoteroFernando Botero
Rufino TamayoRufino Tamayo
Ben ShahnBen Shahn
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock

Personal Contacts

Tina ModottiTina Modotti
David Alfaro SiqueirosDavid Alfaro Siqueiros
Bertram WolfeBertram Wolfe
André BretonAndré Breton
Frida KahloFrida Kahlo


Mexican MuralismMexican Muralism
Pop ArtPop Art

Useful Resources on Diego Rivera






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


Diego Rivera, 1886-1957: A Revolutionary Spirit in Modern Art (Taschen Basic Art) Recomended resource

By Andrea Kettenmann

Dreaming with His Eyes Open: A Life of Diego Rivera (Discovery Series)

By Patrick Marnham

Diego Rivera

By Pete Hamill

More Interesting Books about Diego Rivera
The Diego Rivera Mural Project

Info and Preservation of Diego Mural in San Francisco, CA

Diego Rivera Web Museum

Articles and works dedicated to the mexican Muralist

Diego Rivera Experts

Diego Rivera Celebrated by Google doodle

By David Batty
The Guardian
December 7, 2011

Time Capsule With Pulse on Present Recomended resource

By Karen Rosenberg
The New York Times
November 17, 2011

The Mural Vanishes

By Peter Catapano
The New York Times
April 1, 2011

Kahlo and Rivera, Side by Side in Istanbul Recomended resource

By Susan Fowler
The New York Times
February 7, 2011

More Interesting Articles about Diego Rivera

archival documents

Archives of American Art, The Smithsonian

Photographs and documents on Rivera, and related artists

in pop culture

The Cradle will Rock (1999)

Rivera's Rockerfeller murals are part of the plot in this movie. Diego Rivera portrayed by Ruben Blades

Frida (2002)

Diego Rivera is portrayed by Alfred Molina in this main-stream movie

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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