Biography of Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

Portrait of Diego Rivera.

Mexican painter, associated with the Social realism, born in Guanajuato on December 8, 1886, and died in the city of Mexico, on November 24, 1957. Between 1896 and 1905, he studied at the Academy of San Carlos city of Mexico. In 1907, he received a scholarship to travel to Europe and moved to Spain, studying with Eduardo Chicharro in Madrid until 1909. He painted landscapes and urban scenes; He travels through various European capitals and in Paris relates the Cubists and Fauvists; It meets Picasso and Juan grey and between 1913 and 1917, his painting is Cubist. In these years it comes into contact with some Russian artists and fruit of their conversations, formulates theories which will sustain its future murals in Mexico. "..."Rivera was convinced that if ordinary people had to enjoy the art, the artist should be created in such a way that it not only employ the techniques of modern art and reflect their qualities, but also with a simple enough drawing and a theme thing quite committed to be understandable at first glance..." (McKinley).

After a stay in Italy between 1920 and 1921, where he studied murals of Giotto, Ucello, Piero della Francesca and Miguel Ángel, returns to Mexico and travel to Yucatan for Mayan ruins. In 1922 he received commissioned to paint murals for the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria. That same year he organized, with other artists, the Revolutionary Union of technical workers and plastics; This group rejects the easel painting as elitist and defends a public art large scale historical and indigenous issues.

Between 1923 and 1927 he works in the murals of the Secretariat of public education in the city of Mexico and at the of the Autonomous University of Chapingo. His murals evolve from a flat paint to the modeling of volumes and it unfolds in figures a Mexican physiognomy. His subjects are those of social realism: groups of manual workers in their tasks and festivities. The criticism to the clergy and the military is evident; It portrays some characters caricatured in a hilarious way. in Chapingo are also naked allegorical.

In 1927, he traveled to the Soviet Union to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the October revolution; go to the Communist Party in 1928 and is expelled the following year. Back to Mexico he married the painter Frida Kahlo, who had been his model, and is the director of the Academy of San Carlos. It starts the murals at the Palacio Nacional of Mexico City and the Palacio de Cortés in Cuernavaca.

Seller of flowers (oil on Masonite, 1949). Spanish Museum of contemporary art (Madrid, Spain).

Between 1930 and 1933 he lives in the United States and painted murals of bag of San Francisco, the Art Institute in the same city, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the of the RCA Building in New York. His work created a great controversy in the America of the 1930s; at the RCA, one of the figures represented is Lenin and is forced to remove it; his refusal is dismissed; the mural is destroyed but Rivera plays it later in the Palacio de Bellas Artes of Mexico City. Back to his country in 1933 receives numerous commissions for murals, Mexico and abroad. It accepts Mexican commissions and will only outside the country responsible for the exhibition of the Golden Gate in San Francisco, in 1940. Between 1937 and 1942 he paints and draws generic scenes and portraits. Trotsky, exiled from the USSR, staying at his house until 1939. This year it is visited by Breton which drafted the manifesto for a revolutionary art. In 1942, he began the construction of his residence Anahuacalli, currently showcasing its large collection of pre-Hispanic art.

His most important exhibitions take place in the Museum of modern art in New York in 1931, in the Palacio of Bellas arts of city of Mexico in 1949 and at the Museum of fine arts, Houston in 1951. In 1950 he received the national prize of plastic arts of the Mexican Government and his work is present in the Venice Biennale. He died in the city of Mexico in 1957; He is buried in the Rotunda of illustrious men of this city.

Bare back of a seated woman (red chalk and charcoal, 1926). Museum of modern art in San Francisco (United States).

Earth released with natural forces controlled by the man (cool, 1926). Chapel of the Autonomous University of Chapingo (Chapingo, Mexico).


HELM, MCKINLEY, RIVERA, OROZCO, Siqueiros and othera artists of the social realist school, New York, Dover Publications, 1989.

Latin American artists of the 20th century, catalogue, Commissioner of the city of Seville for 1992. Madrid, 1992.