Rivera, Diego

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Mexican artist Diego Rivera was the leader of an artistic and political movement (1923-30) that celebrated the native history and culture of Mexico with vast public murals.

Rivera was born on December 8, 1886, in the mining town of Guanajuato. At age 10 he entered the Academy of San Carlos, a noted art school in Mexico City. He graduated with a fine arts degree in 1905.

When the Mexican Revolution began in 1910, Rivera went to live in Paris. His best-known work from this period is Zapatista Landscape--The Guerrilla (1915). It is a cubist portrait of the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata. Zapata is portrayed as a collection of geometric shapes--including his gun and parts of his hat, shawl, and face--floating in front of a realistic landscape of the Valley of Mexico.

After the Revolution ended in 1920, the new Mexican government asked Rivera to return and create murals that celebrated native history and culture. He painted ten major murals between 1923 and 1953. Most of them are frescoes (paintings on walls covered with wet plaster). His greatest Mexican mural, at Mexico City's Ministry of Education, consists of 134 panels depicting the history, festivals, and industries of Mexico. Between 1930 and 1935, Rivera painted seven murals in the United States. The most famous of these, the fresco cycle, or series, Detroit Industry (1932-33) at the Detroit Institute of Arts, celebrates factory workers.

Rivera married several times. One of his wives was Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Rivera died in Mexico City on November 24, 1957.

Linda Bank Downs
Author, Diego Rivera: The Detroit Industry Murals

 

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