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Diego Rivera

Mexican Painter and Muralist

Diego Rivera Photo
Movements and Styles: Mexican Muralism, Social Realism

Born: December 8, 1886 - Guanajuato, Mexico

Died: November 24, 1957 - Mexico City, Mexico

"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

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."

Most Important Art


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