The news of surviving war, Revolutionary uprisings, natural disaster, disease, hunger, oil spills and radiation can make art can seem meaningless. Unlike today when Mexico seems to be losing a drug war, there was a time of cultural celebration. With murals as his voice, Diego Rivera could be heard around the world with his political /social messages and a spirit of the land that would ignite the heritage of Mexico. Diego would become one of the greatest artist in History.
He seemed like an ordinary guy with lots of energy and determination. At the age of 10 Diego began attending the San Carlos Academy of Art. There, his artistic education was formed and grounded in classical principles. At age 20, he managed to find funds and resources to paint his way through Spain, London, Russia, Rome and Paris where he befriended the likes of Picasso, Mondrian, Modigliani and Braque to name a few. His painting travels allowed for him to miss the bloodiest accounts of the Mexican Revolution. While in his absence the Revolution became a Civil War where a million Mexican’s lost their lives.
Back in Paris, Diego’s work became more modern, more geometric, inventive and vigorous. He worked 12 hour days and used the cafes as a strategy against loneliness where he began to absorb the political and social theories from the painters, writers and exiles. From Academia to Modernism, Diego was becoming a powerful force in the artist circuit. World War l broke out and the art community suffered enormously.
The reality of going back Mexico was inevitable. Diego had heard of a cultural plan for murals within the New Mexican government and he wanted to be a part of the effort to revitalize his homeland. He began to study the fresco technique and murals of the Italian Renaissance. How could he portray Mexico with the same beauty as Giotto or Rousseau? He needed the outcome to be as real as Heaven. Politically, Diego had to find placement for his beliefs between tradition and revolution. He needed to define the Mexican Revolution; liberate the Indians, demolish illiteracy, create an idealistic idea of Mexico. His return to Mexico was an emersion into the indigenous Art, the ancient Mayan ruins, the Aztec Indians, the heroes, villains and battles of the revolution, the dreams of the Mexican people. After centuries of imposed Spanish culture and the importation of French culture, Mexico needed to embrace its native music and dance, architecture, literature and art. The inventive skill and originality of Diego would create murals for a nation’s identity. Most of his symbolism celebrated the farmers and laborers, all of Mexico’s racial groups, religious symbolism, political differences and the unity of man and nature. He said in his art, “You are all Mexico.” His work became bolder and more confident. His palette was brighter, full of reds and earth browns and the azure of the Mexican sky. “It was as if he had spent more than a decade trying on other people’s clothes and speaking other people’s languages. At last he had come home.”
Diego’s reputation grew and his one man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was extremely successful with more visitors than Matisse. He received several mural commissions in California, New York and Detroit.
His mural at the Detroit Institute for the Arts became a masterpiece. The mural reflected all industry of Detroit at the time. Diego painted machines that were benevolent and triumphant, engines forging a path into a utopian future with man as the driving force. He found great inspiration in the age of machine’s and fascinated by the modernity and perfection of the automotive technology.
“I realize the most wonderful part of my life has been my love for Frida.” Diego Rivera