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Carousel: Diego Rivera

In 1922, Rivera participated in the founding of the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors, and  joined the Mexican Communist Party. His murals, subsequently painted in fresco only, dealt with Mexican society and reflected the country’s 1910 Revolution. Rivera developed  large, simplified figures and bold colors with frank Aztec influence at theSecretariat of Public Education in México City. Leon Trotskylived with Rivera and Kahlo  exiled in México. Some of Rivera’s most famous murals are featured at  Chapingo near Texcoco (1925–27), in the Cortés Palace in Cuernavaca (1929–30), and the National Palace in México City (1929–30, 1935).  In  1927, Rivera arrived in Moscow, accepting to take part in the celebration of the 10th anniversary of theOctober Revolution. The following year, while still in Russia, he met the visiting Alfred H. Barr, Jr., who becams friend and patron, as well as the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art- his mural  Arsenal was interpreted by some as evidence of Rivera’s prior knowledge of the murder of Julio Antonio Mella allegedly by Stalinist assassin Vittorio Vidali.
After divorcing Guadalupe (Lupe) Marin, Rivera married Frida Kahlo in August 1929. Also in 1929, the first English-language book on Rivera, American journalist Ernestine Evans’s The Frescoes of Diego Rivera, was published in New York. In December, Rivera accepted a commission to paint murals in the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca from the American Ambassador to México.
In September 1930, Rivera accepted an invitation from architect Timothy L. Pflueger to paint for him in San Francisco. After arriving in November accompanied by Kahlo, Rivera painted a mural for the City Club of the San Francisco Stock Exchange for US$2,500 and a fresco for the California School of Fine Art, later relocated to what is now the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute. Kahlo and Rivera worked and lived at the studio of Ralph Stackpole, who had suggested Rivera to Pflueger. Rivera met Helen Wills Moody, a famous tennis player, who modeled for his City Club mural. His mural Man at the Crossroads, begun in 1933 for the Rockefeller Center in New York City, was removed after a furor erupted in the press over a portrait of Vladimir Lenin it contained. The American poet Archibald MacLeish wrote six “irony-laden” poems about the mural. The New Yorker magazine published E. B. White’s poem “I paint what I see: A ballad of artistic integrity”. As a result of the negative publicity, a further commissions were canceled but he money left over from the commission of the mural at Rockefeller Center since he was paid in full , he would repaint the same mural over and over wherever he was asked until the money ran out.
In December 1933, Rivera returned to México, and he repainted Man at the Crossroads in 1934 in the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This surviving version was called Man, Controller of the Universe. On June 5, 1940, invited again by Pflueger, Rivera returned for the last time to the USA to paint a ten-panel mural for the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. As he was painting, Rivera was on display in front of Exposition attendees. He received US$1,000 per month and US$1,000 for travel expenses.  The mural includes representations of two of Pflueger’s architectural works as well as portraits of Kahlo, woodcarver Dudley C. Carter, and actress Paulette Goddard, who is depicted holding Rivera’s hand as they plant a white tree together. Rivera’s assistants on the mural included the pioneer African-American artist, dancer, and textile designer Thelma Johnson Streat.

Until tomorrow: some people live forever artists and writers.


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