Diego Rivera's work, a link that unites Mexico's past with its future through art

Diego Rivera was a creator who took Mexican art to the world. Here are all the things you should know about the famous Mexican artist and his work.

Diego Rivera's work, a link that unites Mexico's past with its future through art
Diego Rivera (1886 - 1957). Image: Gob.mx

More than six decades after the death of Diego Rivera, painter, draftsman, colorist, he remains one of Mexico's leading muralists and a protagonist of national cultural life during the first half of the 20th century.

Part of Diego Rivera's artistic heritage, whose purpose -as he once said- was "to link a great past with what we want to be a great future for Mexico", is kept at the Munal, together with a series of easel works, among which landscapes stand out, including After the Storm (1910), a piece created during his first years in Europe, in which he approaches the idealism of the romantic painters.

Diego Rivera is a reason to remember his artistic work and his eagerness for his paintings to reflect Mexico's social life, "as I saw it and, through my vision of truth, to show the masses an outline of the future," said the muralist, whose emblematic fresco Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Central Alameda (1947) -exhibited at the Diego Rivera Mural Museum-, is part of the mark left by the artist from Guanajuato.

Diego Rivera's artistic history

Diego Rivera, originally from the city of Guanajuato, where he was born on December 8, 1886, was a painter, muralist, academic and social fighter. At an early age, he arrived in Mexico City with his family, where he continued his education until 1897 when he began his drawing classes at the San Carlos Academy.

However, dissatisfied with the educational model, he began to work independently and would only return for the annual exhibitions, from which he received a scholarship granted by the then governor of Veracruz, Teodoro A. Dehesa, to continue his studies in Europe in 1907.

From his departure until 1921, Rivera only returned to Mexico for one year. He spent his time in France, Belgium, Holland, England, Spain, and Italy. He became acquainted with the works of the great masters, and his work was influenced by artists of the post-impressionist period and cubism. However, it was the great frescoes of the Renaissance that laid the foundations for his extensive muralist work.

With these studies, José Vasconcelos sought Rivera's return so that he would be the one to initiate the mural works at the National Preparatory School. He did so and his allegory La creación (1922), painted in the Simón Bolívar Amphitheater, marked the formal beginning of muralism.

Between 1923 and 1928, Rivera joined the plastic project of the Secretaría de Educación Pública, where the total of his work was divided into two patios: each one with three corridors, whose walls were divided into boards.

Almost at the same time, he created the murals of the old Chapingo hacienda, under the direction of engineer Marte R. Gómez. The Salón del Consejo del Departamento de Salubridad; the Palacio de Cortés, in Cuernavaca, Morelos; the Palacio Nacional; the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Institute of Cardiology and the Hospital de La Raza, are other spaces where Rivera's mural work can be found within the country, always loaded with an ideological, political and social program.

Internationally, Diego Rivera's name attracted several foreign artists eager to participate in the muralist movement, as was the case of Pablo O'Higgins and sisters Grace and Marion Greenwood.

In the United States, his easel work was exhibited in spaces such as the Palace of the Legion of Honor in California and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. However, his murals at the Institute of Fine Arts in Detroit and the Rockefeller Center in New York were his most important works. Diego Rivera, the muralist from Guanajuato died on November 24, 1957, in Mexico City. His remains rest in the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons of the Dolores Pantheon.