Diego Rivera: Artist Portrait

Diego Rivera

Born 1886. Died 1957.

Diego Rivera Biography

Famed for his monumental murals across North America, and the strong communist influence within his visual lexicon, Diego Rivera showed artistic talent from a very early age. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, on 13 December 1886, Rivera began to draw by age three and enrolled in the Academia de San Carlos by eleven. In his twenties, he earned a grant that allowed him to travel to Spain and France. Afterwards, he returned briefly to Mexico until the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, when he then resettled in Paris where he lived until 1919.

While in Paris he worked closely with the Cubists, and their influence can be seen during this time in his work; by 1917, however, Rivera had abandoned the style of Picasso and Braque and returned to less abstracted modes of figuration. Fellow artists and friends in Mexico began to urge him to return to his home country and contribute to a newly instituted public mural program; before returning to Mexico, he made an important trip to Italy to study Renaissance frescoes. The year 1922 saw his first government-sponsored mural, The Creation, in the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in Mexico City. This would be one of many public commissions he would undertake throughout the rest of his career, both in Mexico and abroad. He did not mask his political beliefs in his art, which aroused controversy. A mural commissioned for Rockefeller Center in New York was destroyed before completion because Rivera included a portrait of Lenin.

In 1929, Rivera married his third wife, the artist Frida Kahlo, and the following year the couple moved to the US to undertake several mural commissions. In 1934, Rivera returned to Mexico, and, by 1937, the artist had dedicated himself almost exclusively to easel painting; these works are held in many of the most illustrious collections in the country, including the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Rivera died in Mexico City in 1957.

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Museums with Works by Diego Rivera

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Artist Image: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive