Biography of Mexican Painter Diego Rivera Part 1

About the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera, history and biography of the artist.


DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957)

As a young painter in Paris, Diego Rivera often complained that his studio was too small. He felt he was filling it, pressing against the walls and into the corners until he was forced to throw open the windows. An imposing figure--6 ft. tall and over 300 lb.--Rivera was patterned on too large a scale to be confined, whether in his work, his love of women, or his politics. By the time of his death, he had become a legend in Mexican art.

Born in Guanajuato, he began to draw almost before learning to walk, and he had his own studio by the time he was able to read. He shocked his parents when, at age five, he emphatically declared there was no God. For the rest of his life he was to espouse a radical philosophy that would bring him under constant attack. Although he joined the Communist party in 1922, he still spoke his own mind. Eventually his frankness led to his expulsion from the party for insisting that artistic integrity depended upon freedom from government control.

Rivera attended the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts on scholarship, but he was expelled after involving himself in student riots. He continued his art studies in Spain, then roamed throughout Europe with his sketch pad. At last he settled in Paris, where he worked and debated endlessly with Cubist painters and Slavic revolutionaries while being "mothered" by his first wife, Angelina Beloff, a gentle, blond Russian refugee.

Returning home in 1921 (without Angelina), he saw his country with new eyes. Newly elected Pres. Alvaro Obregon had begun recruiting artists for the huge task of rebuilding popular culture in the wake of the Mexican civil war. Rivera jumped at the opportunity. He had always believed that art should be created for the masses instead of the privileged few, and this was his chance to place himself at the service of his people. He would tell his story on walls.

While touring the catacombs in Italy, he had marveled at the frescoes, an art form largely ignored since the Italian Renaissance. He determined that his wall decorations would make use of this technique. The 124 frescoes he created for the Ministry of Education in Mexico City brought him instant fame. They depicted a flowing, boldly colored history of the Mexican Indian at work and during fiesta.

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