Diego Rivera 1886-1957

Diego Rivera was born December 13, 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico. His early years were spent in the country, where he grew a fascination for the outdoors and animals. His major art study was at San Carlos Academy. He worked aside Posada, a Mexican artist, who influenced him greatly. While studying in Paris he was exposed to post-modernism and cubism. Many reminisces of these movements are present in his work. Rivera did not return to Mexico from Europe until 1921, therefore he didn't experience the Revolution first hand. His political views were communist and his Marxist-Leninist social revolutionary philosophies prevailed in his art. He used art to create hope and provide a vision of a better world.

Rivera's paintings were devoted to social and political subject matter. He spent a lot of time outside of Mexico. His most famous work in the US was commissioned in 1933 for Rockerfeller Center in New York. It was titled: Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and Light Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future. However, due to his communist beliefs and the inclusion of Lenin in the mural, it was destroyed. Rivera returned to Mexico City and reproduced the work with slight modifications. In 1934 Diego resumed work in the National Palace on an impressive mural called The History of Mexico. It focused on the struggle of Mexicans throughout history. He was able to skillfully fuse together many historical subjects without the use of divisions into frames or panels. One section of this mural is titled, Tierra y Libertad, (Land and Liberty). It illustrates the historic aspirations of the Mexican people and their commitment to those ideals. Emilo Zapata is shown holding a banner with a common worker symbolizing the "common interests of peasants and workers in forging a new, humane order in Mexican life"7. Miguel Hidalgo, a Mexican independence hero, is shown below the banner. This mural is "rich in historical allegory".8 It is a "forceful blend of the panorama fo the past and the hopes for the future."9 In another section, Mexico Tomorrow, Rivera expresses Mexico's hopes for the future. To the right of the "Huelga" poster, meaning strike, two rebels are shown hanging: one and agarian rebel and one and communist. Three other agaristas are shown moments before they are to be shot. Their fearless expressions illustrated the determination of the revolutionaries to continue the fight despite the horrific consequences. The hipocrisy of the clergy is depicted on the left center where a cleric is clearly more intersted in sexual pursuits than the sprirtual needs of his parishioners. In this major mural, The History of Mexico, Rivera combines the historic struggles of the oppressed and his hopes for the future history of Mexico.

Diego Rivera self-portrait

Diego Rivera
Smith College Museum of Art,

picture from CGFA

Mexican Revolution Orozco Siqueiros Comparison Gallery