Diego Rivera was a well-known Mexican painter who lived from December 8, 1886 to November 24, 1957. His enormous frescoes aided in the development of the mural movement in Mexican and worldwide art.
Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera produced murals in Mexico City, Chapingo, and Cuernavaca, as well as San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City in the United States.
Before completing his 27-mural series known as Detroit Industry Murals, he had a retrospective show of his works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1931.
Rivera had a number of marriages and children, including at least one biological daughter. His first and only son died when he was two years old.
His third wife was Frida Kahlo, a fellow Mexican artist with whom he had a turbulent relationship that lasted until her death. For his sixth marriage he married his agent.
Diego Rivera, is often regarded as the finest Mexican painter of the twentieth century(although many would argue that his wife Frida Kahlo should hold such a title), had a tremendous impact on the worldwide art world.
Rivera is renowned for reintroducing fresco painting into contemporary art and architecture, among other things.
Famous Diego Rivera Paintings
1. Detroit Industry Murals
The Detroit Industry Murals (1932–1933) are a set of frescoes composed of twenty-seven panels showing industry at the Ford Motor Company and around the city of Detroit.
They encircle the Detroit Institute of Arts’ internal Rivera Court. They were painted between 1932 and 1933 and Rivera regarded them as his most accomplished work.
The Detroit Industry Murals were named a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior on 23 April 2014.
On the north and south walls, the two major panels represent workmen at Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Plant.
Other panels illustrate advancements in a variety of scientific sectors, including medicine and new technologies. Taken together, the mural series illustrates the concept that all acts and thoughts are interconnected.
2. Man at the Crossroads
Man at the Crossroads (1934) was a fresco at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. It was initially scheduled to be erected in the foyer of the center’s main structure, 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Man at the Crossroads explored modern social and scientific culture. It was originally a three-paneled artwork. A middle panel featured an image of a worker operating equipment.
Two other panels, “The Frontier of Ethical Evolution” and “The Frontier of Material Development,” flanked the center panel, representing socialism and capitalism, respectively.
The Rockefeller family endorsed the mural’s concept: juxtaposing capitalism with communism. After the paper the New York World-Telegram objected to the piece, describing it as “anti-capitalist propaganda,” Rivera responded by including pictures of Vladimir Lenin and a Soviet Russian May Day procession.
When they were found, Nelson Rockefeller — then the director of the Rockefeller Center – pressed Rivera to remove the Lenin painting, but Rivera refused.
In May 1933, Rockefeller ordered that the artwork be painted over, thereby destroying it before it was completed, sparking outrage and boycotts from other artists.
Man at the Crossroads was removed in 1934 and replaced three years later by a mural by Josep Maria Sert. Only black-and-white images of the original unfinished painting survive; they were shot when Rivera feared it might be destroyed.
Rivera recreated the composition in Mexico using the pictures under the alternate title Man, Controller of the Universe.
3. The Flower Carrier
The Flower Carrier is a 1935 oil and tempera on Masonite work by Rivera.
It is on exhibit in the SF MOMA as part of the Albert M. Bender Collection. The picture is a symbolic representation of a worker’s challenges in a contemporary, capitalist environment.
The Flower Carrier embodies one of Rivera’s favorite topics and his admiration for Mexico’s underclass, campesinos, and sellers.
The artist publicly supported the cause of the Mexican Revolution via his public murals, and he consistently showed his sympathy with the ordinary people, boldly associating himself with them and their unjust sufferings.
4. Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park
Sueo de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central, or Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central, is a mural by Diego Rivera that was painted between 1946 and 1947 and serves as the centerpiece of the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, which is located adjacent to the Alameda in Mexico City’s historic center.
The artwork was initially commissioned by architect Carlos Obregón Santacilia for the adjacent Hotel Del Prado’s Versailles Restaurant.
When the hotel was declared unfit and slated for destruction following the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the painting was repaired and relocated to its own museum.
5. Pan American Unity
Pan American Unity is a mural painted in 1940 in San Francisco, California for the Art in Action display at Treasure Island’s Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE).
This installation was the focus of the Art In Action display, which included several artists making works live throughout the Exposition.
The painting included pictures of Frida Kahlo, woodcarver Dudley C. Carter, and himself planting a tree and clutching actress Paulette Goddard’s hand.
Also Read: Famous Frida Kahlo Paintings
Timothy L. Pflueger is portrayed holding architectural blueprints for the Pflueger Library, which is now under construction.
Prior to the mural’s completion, both the San Francisco Art Commission and the Board of Education faced criticism about its content, especially due to the inclusion of caricatures of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
In August 1940, the Art Commission recognized the aesthetic quality but deferred to the Board of Education the determination of acceptable subject matter.
When Milton Pflueger (Timothy’s younger brother) was commissioned to build the CCSF campus theater in 1957, he recommended that his original design for the theater lobby be modified to fit the new facility’s mural.
Emmy Lou Packard returned in 1961 to restore the damage, and Mona Hoffman, another of Rivera’s workers on the original painting, was unable to tell the difference, much to Packard’s satisfaction.
The modern library at CCSF was planned with a four-story atrium to accommodate the artwork, but it was not relocated due to worries about possible damage.
In 1999, a Getty Conservation Institute specialist chastised college officials for failing to consider the following two centuries, and the artist’s daughter, Guadalupe Rivera-Marn, pushed CCSF to create a structure devoted to the painting. In 2012, Jim Diaz of KMD Architects built a speculative structure to host the painting.
6. The History of Mexico
The History of Mexico is a mural on the stairway of Mexico City’s National Palace.
Produced between 1929 and 1935, the mural shows Mexico’s history from prehistoric times to the present, with a focus on the battles of the ordinary Mexican people against the Spanish, the French, and various dictators that ruled the nation at various moments in its history.
Between 1923 and 1939, government-sponsored paintings were commissioned to commemorate the collapse of the Porfirio Diaz regime. They were mostly located in Mexico City and neighboring regions.
The government commissioned many painters to paint images from Mexican history, most notably José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rivera himself. In August 1929, Rivera started painting The History of Mexico in the National Palace’s stairwells. It was completed in six years.
7. The Making of a Fresco, Showing The Building of a City
The Making of a Fresco, Showing The Building of a City covers a key wall at the Diego Rivera Gallery, a contemporary exhibition space for new works by San Francisco Art Institute artists.
The mural was commissioned by William Gerstle (1930–1931), President of the San Francisco Art Institute, and completed by Rivera in one month, from May 1–May 31, 1931. It is signed and dated in the bottom right-hand corner, just under the drawing table.
The work effectively conflates art with labor—the “job” of creative activity itself with the humans who surround, support, and finance an artwork.
The mural has been hailed as a controversial representation of Rivera’s politics and a manifestation of the artist’s increased standing for industrial workers.
8. Zapata-style Landscape
Zapata-style Landscape, represents the culmination of modern art trends applied to the Mexican Revolution and the struggle of the revolutionary leader, Emiliano Zapata, to defend his people’s lands and their way of life.
The composition is in a synthetic-Cubist style, with the exception that it features elements related to the Mexican Revolution in the foreground—namely, a gun, a belt, a gourd, a hat, and a sarape with red stripes that lend color to the piece.
9. The Rivals
The Rivals is a 1931 painting commissioned by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the driving force behind the establishment of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.
The artist made the painting while traveling aboard the SS Moro from Mexico City to New York City. The image depicts “Las Velas,” a celebration conducted in the Mexican state of Oaxaca in honor of local patron saints and spring’s bounty.
10. The Alarm Clock
The Alarm Clock is one of Rivera’s Cubist paintings has an alarm clock surrounded by musical instruments and a card game.
As with previous Cubist works, the painting incorporates deconstructed and abstracted elements; nevertheless, unlike many other Cubist works, the painting makes extensive use of brilliant colors.
The very vivid palette is evocative of the Mexican flag, alluding to the artist’s contribution in establishing a cohesive creative identity for Mexico.