Rivera was a life long Marxist and member of the Mexican Communist Party and eventually turned to Social Realism as a way to express his ideas about the oppression of the poor in a country dominated by a contrasting politics and colours. He wanted to make the workers the heroes of his paintings, workers toiling to bring progress to Mexico. Public art was the way to do it on a grand scale. His murals are filled with large, simplified figures and bold contrasting colours.
Rivera’s first mural Creation was a commissioned work from the Mexican Minister of Education Jose Vasconcelos, painted in 1922-23.
Then from 1924 to 1927 Rivera worked on what is considered to be one of his best murals - Tierra Fecundads (Fertile Land) at the Chapingo Autonomous University, an agricultural college located in Texcoco, Mexico.
The mural hangs on the south wall, Patio de las Fiestas (Courtyard of Fiestas), third floor, Secretaría de Educación Pública, Mexico City.
The South Wall contains images of a better future for Mexico but sadly I wasn't able to find an image of this mural.
Following on from this monumental work, in 1931 Rivera had a solo exhibition at MoMA where he produced 8 portable frescoes. I have chosen to show you the one depicting the Agrarian Leader Emiliano Zapata, a significant figure in the Mexican Revolution. The image shows Zapata with his white steed, bridle in hand, standing over the body of a land owner.
Rivera's journeys to the United States had a very important effect on his work. He experienced a freedom from the Mexican elements which were central to his paintings - the cultural history, the politics, the ordinary people. This temporary respite allowed Diego to concentrate on his interest in technology which was dominating the American industrial scene. Detroit Industry (1932-3) is a 27-panel tribute to the city’s labor force. It was a commissioned work and appears in the Detroit Institute of Art in Midtown Detroit, Michigan, U.S. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a very good image of this mural and the one shown below is only a section.
Labourers working at Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Plant are shown. On some of the panels advances in medicine and technology are depicted. I have read that of all his murals Rivera considered this one to be his best.
At the center of this masterpiece is a workman controlling machinery with a fist holding an orb in front of him. 4 propeller-like shapes stretch from center to corner of the composition representing discoveries made possible by science. The composition also depicts a contrast between Capitalism and Socialism with wealthy people playing cards and smoking in the left while on the right Lenin is seen holding hands with a multi-racial group of workers. It is definitely the most renowned masterpiece by Diego Rivera. (Ref: https://learnodo-newtonic.com/diego-rivera-famous-paintings)
This mural (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park) was originally created for the Versailles restaurant at the hotel Prado but was moved to the museum after the hotel was destroyed in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. The murals shows events from Mexican history with famous Mexicans shown together in Alameda Central Park, Mexico City which has witnessed several important events in Mexican history. The female skeleton in the centre is a copy of La Calavera Catrina from a zinc etching by Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada. She represents a satirical portrait of the Mexicans who were aspiring to adopt European aristocratic traditions in pre-revolution times. But what about the frog? Where is it?
Location: Secretariat of Public Education Main Headquarters, Mexico City, Mexico
In summary what could be said of Diego Rivera is that He lived large, he dreamed large and he painted large!
We're about to move from Mexico so hop on a plane. We are off to Italy.