Diego Rivera’s legacy

AFTER writing that article for Studenty.me, since I had already did a research on him I thought I might as well share more about his life here.

Rivera Diego was born in 1886 in Guanajuato, a rich silver mining town about 400 km North of Mexico city. He joined Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City at the age of ten to study art.

1904.La Era.

After arrival in Europe in 1907, Rivera initially went to study with Eduardo Chicharro in Madrid, Spain, and from there, he went to Paris to live and work with the artists in Montparnasse.

In those years, Paris was witnessing the beginning of cubism.

He was influenced by it as you can see from his paintings:

Sailor at Breakfast 1914.                      Jacques Lipchitz (Portrait of a Young Man) 1914.


From 1913 to 1917, Rivera enthusiastically embraced this new school of art. Around 1917, inspired by Paul Cézanne’s paintings, Rivera shifted toward Post-Impressionism.

Right: Still Life – 1913.                                               Left: Portrait of Adolfo Best Maugard- 1913


In 1920,while in Italy, he was exposed to frescoes from hundreds of years earlier.  Rivera’s enthusiasm for murals was encouraged through the study of the Italian masters.

This trip was undertaken at the urging of Alberto J. Pani, the Mexican ambassador to France. Through Pani, Rivera was in touch with Jose Vasconcelos, then rector of the University of Mexico. Both men encouraged Rivera to come home and devote his artistic skills to his country

In 1921, After 14 years away from Mexico, he left Paris and Angelina Belhoff (his first wife) and returned home.

He participated in what is known as the “Mexican Renaissance” to work with the person who had the greatest possible influence on Rivera’s further development in Art.

He became involved in the government sponsored Mexican mural program planned by Vasconcelos.

Vasconcelos now Minister of Education wanted to promote the national identity of Mexicans by showing them the splendour of their past and the possibilities of their future. He happily gave Rivera this opportunity.

Rivera’s own view of Art had started to shift. He believed that art should be enjoyed by everyone, especially the poor and working class people. He began focusing on murals.

For five years from 1923 to 28 Rivera worked at the Ministry of Education. He met Siqueiros and Orosco. In 1923 they formed a trade union of painters and sculptors.

In 1924, the trade union issued a periodical called “El Machete“. Soon El Machete ceased to be an artist’s publication and increasingly became an organ for Communist propaganda.

The Distribution of Arms- 1928

In the autumn of 1927, Rivera arrived in Moscow, accepting an invitation to take part in the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.He was to paint a mural in Moscow, but was ordered out by the authorities because of involvement in anti-Soviet politics. He returned to Mexico.

In September 1930, Rivera accepted an invitation from architect Timothy L. Pflueger to paint for him in San Francisco.

Rivera was a womanizer and was still married to his second wife when he met the art student Frida Kahlo. (Seen above at the center of the piece) They married on August 21, 1929 when he was 42 and she was 22. Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper led to divorce in 1939, but they remarried December 8, 1940 in San Francisco.

Rivera did a work for the City Club in San Francisco, then twenty-seven fresco panels in Detroit, entitled Detroit Industry (1932-1933) on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
His mural Man at the Crossroads, begun in 1933 for the Rockefeller Center in New York City, was removed after a furor erupted in the press over a portrait of Vladimir Lenin it contained and was destroyed.

In December 1933, Rivera returned to Mexico. He went back to San Francisco one last time in 1940 to paint a ten-panel mural. Pan American Unity was completed November 29, 1940.

Below are Trends of Creative Effort in the United States.The Rise of Woman in Various Fields of Creative Endeavor Through her Use of the Power of Man made Machinery.

Between 1933 and 1950, his life is still untangled with political and marital conflicts.

                                                                      Nude with Flowers- 1944.                                  

He still found enthusiasm for new genre such as surrealism with Andre Le Breton.

Temptations of Saint Anthony.1947. This can be taken as an example of Rivera’s surrealist paintings. It shows radishes with different sexual attributes.  Original or What?

Til the very end, Rivera was a man who lived his life to the fullest. In 1954 Frida dies and the year after Diego marries Emma Hurtado, his dealer since 1946. He finally dies three years later, in November 1957.

May Day Procession in Moscow, 1956

What should we retain of Rivera’s life?

  • His belief that one could not be a great artist unless he fought to overcome oppression of working people and the poor.
  • The amazing diversity in style and skills at painting.
  • His large legacy of more than 200 murals and paintings.




(With a nice quizz/comprehension test if you feel like testing your knowledge.


(Great extensive biography on Rivera’s life)

This entry was published on December 26, 2011 at 10:53 pm. It’s filed under Art Elsewhere, Art History and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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