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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

"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

Summary of Diego Rivera

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.
Detail of <i>Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park</i> (1946-47) by Diego Rivera. At the Diego Rivera Mural Museum in Mexico City
Detail of Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park (1946-47) by Diego Rivera. At the Diego Rivera Mural Museum in Mexico City

When Diego Rivera first returned home to Mexico from his artistic studies in France, he was so overcome with joy that he fainted. Later, he said, "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 secret of my best work is that it is Mexican."

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 Google 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 Google 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 Google 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

More Diego Rivera Artwork and Analysis:

Creation (1922–23) Man, Controller of the Universe (Man in the Time Machine) (1934) Portrait of Lupe Marin (1938) The Detroit Industry Fresco Cycle (1932–33) Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park (1947–48)

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
Show influences

Artists

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

Movements

Classical ArtClassical Art
Post-ImpressionismPost-Impressionism
CubismCubism
SurrealismSurrealism
Mexican MuralismMexican Muralism
Influences on Artist
Influences on Artist
Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera
Years Worked: 1906 - 1957
Influenced by Artist
Influenced by Artist

Artists

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

Movements

Mexican MuralismMexican Muralism
Pop ArtPop Art

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 21 Jan 2012. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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