View ArtistDiego Rivera

Artist's Biography
Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, Mexico on December 8, 1886.

In 1892 his family moved to Mexico City. While at the San Carlos Academy, before his protest and departure, such paintings of his as Paisaje de Mixcoac ("Mixcoac Landscape") show the influence of José Velasco, Mexico's great landscape painter.

Rivera had his first exhibition in 1907, which resulted in a scholarship that took him to Europe. After sojourns in Madrid and Paris, he went back to Mexico in the fall of 1910, In July of the following year he again left for Paris. There, between 1912 and 1917, he was affiliated with the cubist school, then considered the ultimate in avant-garde artistic expression.

Returning to Mexico in 1921, Rivera painted his first important mural in 1922. Titled Primera Energía, its theme is the primal energy that animates both Man and Woman, with all its powers and potentialities. Rivera also won high praise for frescoes, painted in 1927, for the Auditorium of the National Agricultural School at Chapingo. Some critics consider these to be his finest work. Also in this building is the mural "Biological Evolution and Social Evolution," a philosophically symbolic synthesis in which the female nude figures are considered among the most impressive in modern art.

In Mexico' s Palacio Nacional ("Presidential Palace") are frescoes that express Rivera's interpretation of Mexican history. The ones on the staircase cover the period up to 1935 and in the corridors from 1943 onward. These highlight the weltanschuaung of an artist who is also a committed ideologue. Rivera harks back to Mexico's pre-Columbian past and particularly impressive -- especially for its striking colors -- is his depiction of the marketplace in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán.

Rivera the political man is of almost as much interest to us as Rivera the artist. The painter was a lifelong militant atheist and revolutionary Marxist. But events in the Soviet Union would create for him an intense ideological dilemma. When Stalin gained the upper hand in the struggle against Trotsky, he banished him from Soviet territory in February 1929. At the time, Rivera sided with Trotsky. Turkey granted Trotsky asylum and he remained there until 1933, when he moved to France. In 1935 Trotsky left France for Norway but Soviet pressure got him expelled from that country at the end of 1936. At Rivera's behest, President Lázaro Cárdenas agreed to give Trotsky asylum. On January 9, 1937, his ship from Norway was greeted by the commander of Cárdenas's presidential train. Trotsky and his entourage were greeted by Rivera at a small station near Mexico City and then transported to the Blue House, Rivera's magnificent residence in Coyoacán. This would be Trotsky's home for the next two years.

In February 1938 Rivera and another Trotsky admirer, the French Surrealist poet André Breton, signed a manifesto in Partisan Review, a left-wing anti-Stalinist New York literary magazine, calling for creation of an International Federation of Revolutionary Writers and Artists. Purpose of the federation was to resist Stalinist cultural domination in the arts.

Rivera's contrarian nature caused a break between him and Trotsky in 1940. This was a presidential election year and Cárdenas's choice to succeed him was Manuel Avila Camacho, a former general who was more conservative than Cárdenas and a religious believer to boot. Though Cárdenas had welcomed Trotsky to Mexico, there was a strong Stalinist element among his followers. This faction included labor leader Vicente Lombardo Toledano and another celebrated Mexican painter, David Alfaro Siqueiros.

The Stalinist ring around Cárdenas caused Rivera, much to Trotsky's dismay, to attack Cárdenas as "an accomplice of the Stalinists." Rivera also decided to support Avila Camacho's opponent in the coming election, a general named Juan Andrew Almazán. Almazán was even more right-wing than his opponent, promising to bring the unions into line and
1886 -December 13: Born José Diego (twin brother José Carlos) Rivera Barrientos, in Guanajuato, Mexico.
1888 -José Carlos dies at age one and a half.
1891- Sister, María del Pilar Rivera, born.
1892 - The family move to Mexico City.
1896 - Enters evening art course at the Academy of San Carlos.
1899 - At his father's insistence enrolls in a military college, but after two weeks, repealed by the prospect of regimented training, he is permitted to enroll in regular classes at San Carlos. His teachers at the academy include Félix Parra, José María Velasco, and Santiago Rebull.
1904 - Paints both figures studies and landscapes in the manner of Velasco, including La era and La castañeda.
1905 - Wins a government pension
1906 - Included in an exhibition at San Carlos. Exhibits some landscapes.Participates in an exhibition organized for Savia Moderna.
1907 - January 6: Rivera arrives in Spain. He receives a modest four year scholarship for European study from Governor Teodoro Dehesa. Gerardo Murillo has provided a letter of introduction to the fashionable Spanish realist Eduardo Chicharro, who takes Rivera on as a student.
1908 - Forms friendship with leading members of the Spanish avant-garde, including Ramón del Valle-Inclán and the painter María Gutiérrez B.
1909 - Arrives in Paris. In summer visits Bruges, and through María Gutiérrez meets a young Russian artist, Angeline Beloff, who will later become his common-law wife.In november returns to Paris.
1910 - Studies with the academic painter Victor-Octave Guillonet. Exhibits several painting in the exhibition of the Societé des Artistes Independants. Rivera arrives back in Mexico.
1911 - Rivera returns to Paris. Exhibits landscapes in the Salon d' Automne. He travels to Catalonia.
1912 - He returns to Paris and set up residence at 26, rue de Depart. Exhibits Catalonian landscapes in the Societé des Artistes Independants. Spring: travels with Beloff to Toledo.
1913 - This year mark Rivera's transition to Cubism. Exhibits painting in the Groupe Libre exhibition at the Gallerie Bernheim-Jeune.Remains in Paris studio preparing for spring exhibition of the Societé des Artistes Independants.Early in the year returns to Toledo and completes his Adoration of the Virgin and child, the first work to successfully incorporate the Cubism elements. Late summer exhibits at the Salon d' Automne.
1914 - Exhibits in the Societé des Artistes Indépendants. Meets Juan Gris and adopts some of his language. Meets Picasso, Picasso express admiration for Rivera's recent painting, and they talk for several hour about Cubism. April: Rivera's only one person exhibition in Paris at the Gallery of Berthe Weill. Beginning of World War I. Rivera, Beloff, Jacques Lipchitz, and María Gutiérrez undertake a walking and sketching tour of Spain. At the outbreak of the war, they are camped on the island of Majorca. Rivera's group moves to Madrid.
1915 - Exhibits his Spanish work in "los pintores integros", an exhibition organized by Gómez de la Serna, which introduces Cubism in Madrid. Rivera and Beloff return to Paris. Meets Marevna Vorobieva.
1916 - Included in two group shows of post-impressionist and cubist at Marius de Zaya's Modern Gallery in New York. Invents an instrument he calls "la chose"-possibly to assist him in plotting planar refractions on his canvases. Beloff gives birth to Rivera's son Diego.
1917 - Pierre Revendy, in Apollinaire's wartime absence the most prominent critic in Paris, denounces Rivera and Lhote by implication in his essay "Sur le cubisme". At a subsequent dinner given by Leonce Rosenberg- a collaborator of Revendy-Rivera and Revendy engage in an argument that leads to actual physical violence. As a result of what would later be termed "l'affaire Rivera" by the critic André Salmon, the artist breaks with Rosenberg. Begins executing Ingres-drawing and continues to study Cezanne. Meets Elie Faure; this marks the beginning of his lifelong friendship.

Diego Rivera
Campesinos en campo de arroz
pencil on paper

Diego Rivera
Workmen shoveling coal
watercolor on rice paper