Diego Rivera

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Rivera, Diego

(thyā`gō rēvā`rä), 1886–1957, Mexican mural painter, studied as a youth with Posada and other Mexican painters; husband of Frida KahloKahlo, Frida
, 1907–54, Mexican painter, b. Coyoacán as Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón. As a result of an accident at age 15, Kahlo turned her attention from a medical career to painting.
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. The native sculpture of Mexico deeply impressed him. In Europe (1907–9, 1912–21) he worked in several countries and was influenced by the paintings of El Greco and Goya. He had close association with Cézanne and Picasso and with communistic Russians in exile. He became convinced that a new form of art should respond to "the new order of things … and that the logical place for this art … belonging to the populace, was on the walls of public buildings." Returning in 1921 to Mexico, he painted, with the assistance of younger artists, large murals dealing with the life, history, and social problems of Mexico, in the Preparatory School and the Ministry of Education in Mexico City and the Agricultural School of Chapingo. To the peasants and workers he became a sort of prophet. He visited Moscow in 1927–28 and upon his return painted in the National Palace and in the Palace of Cortés at Cuernavaca. In the United States he painted frescoes in the luncheon club of the Stock Exchange and in the Fine Arts Building, both in San Francisco, and murals in the Detroit Institute of Arts, giving his interpretation of industrial America as exemplified in Detroit. A mural for Rockefeller Center, New York City, was destroyed by order of his sponsors because of the inclusion of a portrait of Lenin. The mural was reproduced in Mexico City at the Palace of Fine Arts. Rivera in 1936 interceded with President Cárdenas to permit Trotsky to come to Mexico. In 1956 the artist went to Moscow for an operation. Several months before his death he announced his affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church.


See Portrait of America (1934) and Portrait of Mexico (1937), with illustrations by Rivera and text by B. D. Wolfe; autobiography (1960); biographies by P. Marnham (1998) and P. Hamill (1999); study by L. Brenner (1987); Detroit Institute of the Arts, Diego Rivera: A Retrospective (1986).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Rivera, Diego


Born Dec. 8, 1886, in Guanajuato; died Nov. 25, 1957, in Mexico City. Mexican painter.

Between 1896 and 1902, Rivera attended the Academy of Arts in Mexico City, where he became a friend of J. G. Posada. He lived in Europe from 1907 to 1921. Rivera studied at the Academy of Arts in Madrid in 1907 and worked in Paris from 1909 to 1921, where he was influenced by cubism. In 1920–21 he visited Italy and studied murals dating from the 14th to 16th centuries. In 1922, Rivera joined the Communist Party of Mexico. He lived in the USSR in 1927 and 1928, where he was a founding member of the October art group in the latter year. Rivera also visited the USSR in 1955–56. From 1930 to 1934 and again in 1940 he worked in the United States.

In 1922, Rivera was one of the founders of the Mexican school of mural painting. He considered mural art as a powerful means of communication with the masses for agitation, propaganda, education, and the positive representation of national life, labor, and revolutionary struggle. Rivera’s murals are openly publicistic: they are based on a strong historical-narrative principle, and their political or philosophical ideas are personified in easily recognizable portraits or symbols. Seeking to make his art easy to understand, Rivera developed his style on the basis of Italian Renaissance traditions, adding typical elements from the art of ancient Mexico. Plastically powerful figures and groups are bound together by a two-dimensional composition and the ornamental rhythm of lines and areas of color.

Rivera’s first cycle of murals, which were for the National Preparatory School in Mexico City (1922–23), are noted for their encaustic technique and their strict neoclassical style. Rivera later turned to traditional Mexican fresco painting, using this technique for his murals at the Ministry of Education (Mexico City, 1923-29), the Ministry of Health (Mexico City, 1929-30), the National Palace (Mexico City, 1929–1950’s), the Hotel del Prado (Mexico City, 1947-48), the National Agricultural School (Chiapingo, 1926-27), and the Palace of Cortez (Cuernavaca, 1929-30). Rivera’s murals for the Detroit Institute of Arts (1932-33) are also frescoes.

Restrained, simple scenes of labor and revolution are depicted in Rivera’s frescoes for the Labor Courtyard at the Ministry of Education. The artist subsequently used his frescoes as a source of various types of information, including political messages. He symbolically combined dissimilar scenes, motifs, emblems, and inscriptions. Later, in Rivera’s murals for the exterior of structures, the abundance of motifs is subordinated to the overall decorative concept. These works, executed with synthetic materials and often employing mosaics and relief work, include the Insurgentes Theater (1951-53), the Olympic Stadium (1952-53), and the water-distribution system of the Lerma River (1951-53).


Zhadova, L. Monumentanl’aia zhivopis’ Meksiki. Moscow, 1965.
Ospovat, L. Diego Rivera. Moscow, 1969.
Seeker, H. F. Diego Rivera.[Dresden, 1957.]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.