Overview: The most celebrated artist of the Mexican Mural Renaissance commenced his artistic career with a long course of study in Europe. After a period of travel in Spain, England, and Belgium, Rivera settled for an extended stay in Paris, developing and exploring a distinctive style of cubism featured in the Gallery’s exhibition The Cubist Paintings of Diego Rivera: Memory, Politics, Place (April 4–July 25, 2004).
Leaving France in 1920 for a brief sojourn in Italy to study art, particularly the frescoes of the Renaissance, the artist returned to Mexico in 1921 to find a post-Revolution government eager to sponsor public art projects. Hired by then Minister of Education José Vasconcelos, Rivera embarked on a series of frescoes for public buildings. Shifting from the cubist experimentation that contained hints and references to his native land, Rivera forged a style that brought an emphasis on Mexican identity, indigenous art and culture, and revolutionary politics to the forefront.
Rivera’s accomplishments in Mexico and the United States were extensively documented through the efforts of two women who shared his artistic ideals and radical politics, photographer Tina Modotti and artist Lucienne Bloch.
Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art. Meg Melvin, image specialist for modern art, was curator.