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Diego Rivera Mural Reproductions

Rosenberg Library hosted a traveling exhibit of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. The lightweight satin panels highlighted the details which make Rivera’s murals some of Mexico’s national treasures. The set included a black and white photograph of the artist and his wife, Frida Kahlo, as well as three of his works: Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park (detail of mural, 1948), The Agitator (detail of mural, 1926), and El Vendedor de Alcatraces (painting, 1942).

Diego Maria Rivera was one of the most charismatic, controversial, and creative artists to emerge from the twentieth century. He revived interest in the mural art form belonging to the folk art of Mexico. Born on December 8, 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico, Rivera began drawing almost as soon as he could grasp a pencil. As a child, he covered the walls and furniture of his home with his works, a precursor of the muralist he would become.

In 1906 he finished his formal training at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Art and showed 26 of his works at the final student exhibit. His talent caught the attention of the governor of Veracruz who arranged for Rivera to study art in Europe. He began in Spain, and then traveled to Paris where he was surrounded by artists and philosophers of the day including Piet Mondrian, Amadeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. There Rivera embraced Cubism, though years later he abandoned the movement. In 1920 Rivera was awarded a stipend to study in Italy where he discovered the art form that would be synonymous with his name – wall frescos. A difficult medium, frescos require the application of paint directly onto wet plaster.

Upon returning to Mexico in 1921, Rivera was invited by the Minister of Education to participate in the new government’s cultural plan to bring art to the people by decorating public spaces. He began a massive undertaking at the Ministry of Education, painting nearly 17,000 square feet, a project which took nearly seven years to complete. It is a vividly colorful example of his favorite imagery – pre-Hispanic civilization, Indian life, and peasants at work and at play. Over the next several years as he received numerous government commissions, his reputation as an acclaimed muralist grew.

Throughout the 1920s he completed prominent public murals including those at the Agricultural College at Chapingo, the National Palace, and several within the United States. Rivera began to experience international fame in the 1930s with a one-man retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, cementing his role as one of the twentieth century’s greatest living artists. Back in Mexico, Rivera turned increasingly to easel painting though he did complete several unfinished murals.

During the 1940s and 1950s, he completed what is considered one of his greatest works, “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park,” commissioned for the Hotel del Prado in 1947. The work depicts the history of Mexico and features Rivera as a small boy in the center with his wife Kahlo’s hand on his shoulder and his childhood mentor, engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada, nearby.

Rivera was diagnosed with cancer in 1955. His health deteriorated rapidly and on November 24, 1957, he died quietly of heart failure. His remains were placed in Mexico City’s famous Rotunda of Illustrious Men. To Mexico, Rivera bequeathed Anahuacilla, an Aztec-style pyramid which houses his large collection of pre-Hispanic Mexican art, and his and Kahlo’s art studios, all of which are national museums today. However it is his body of work that was his true gift. He not only achieved his goal of bringing art to the people of Mexico, but also brought the art of Mexico to the world.