Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spotlight on Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera was born December 8, 1886 in Guanajato, Mexico. The son of school teachers, education was highly valued in his family. While attending Catholic school, he enrolled in the art program at the Academy of San Carlos. He originally attended evening classes there, but his aptitude for the arts was apparent and he became a full-time student two years later, in 1898. Rivera's first public exhibition of his work was held in 1906, which attracted enough attention that by 1907, the Governor of the State of Veracruz had sponsored Rivera to continue his studies in Europe.

Head of a Breton Woman - 1910
Rivera arrived in Europe during a time of great change in the art world. He originally studied with Eduardo Chicharra in Spain, then continued on to Paris, France. It was here that he embraced the up and coming artists of the day, including such notables as Amedeo Modigliani, Moise Kisling, Chaim Soutine, Max Jacob and gallery owner Leopold Zborowski. The Montparnasse district was full of Cubist influences, from the likes of Picasso and Georges Braque and Rivera soon found those influences affecting his own work. By 1917, the artwork of Cezanne also left an impression on Rivera and his artwork now showed signs of Post-Impressionism as well.

Creation (mural) 1922
While Europe left a huge mark on Rivera's art, his heart still belonged to Mexico and he returned to it in 1921. He had spent the past 14 years travelling throughout Spain, France and Italy, but with a more mature style, he found the need to reconnect with his home country and all that it offered. One of those things offered was the chance to leave a lasting public image via murals. At the time the government was pushing for education, equality and a recognition of their culture, which Rivera was perfect for. "Creation" was his first mural, but was just the beginning of his work with this medium, which was further showcased when he joined the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors. He followed that up by joining the Mexican Communist Party later that year.

El Vendedor De Alcatraces
His association with the Communist Party was not an easy one though. Rivera was vocal in his political beliefs and often attacked the church and clergy, making him a controversial figure. Despite that, he was invited to visit Russia in 1927. After spending nine months there, he was asked to leave and left with very little to show for his time spent, aside from a few paintings and much disillusionment on both sides about the other parties. Non-plussed, Rivera continued to paint, this time embracing another land and culture, that of the United States.

Section of Detroit Industry - 1933
In 1930, Rivera arrived in San Francisco with his new wife Frida Khalo. The architect Timothy L. Pflueger had heard about Rivera from Ralph Stackpole and subsequently had encouraged him to paint for him in the USA. This proved a successful venture for Rivera and he painted many murals, including "Detroit Industry" at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He spent three years in the US, then returned to Mexico, after furors over his political beliefs. He returned once more in 1940, again by request of Pflueger, this time to paint for the Golden Gate International Exposition.

Over the span of Rivera's lifetime, he created many murals and many more controversies. He had many affairs, often torrid in nature, but his love for Khalo was the one constant at the end of his life. His relations with the Communist Party waxed and waned, but shortly before his death he was allowed to re-establish ties to the party. His beliefs affronted many, but his skill impressed more. And Budding Artists recognizes everything that he accomplished and will be featuring him in this weekend's Master Series Children's Art Workshop. So pack up your kids and ship them off to the London Farmer's Market on Saturday May 5th at 10:30am or 1pm, where they will enjoy 90 minutes of creativity, art history and fun with Budding Artists and famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera. A perfect activity for them to celebrate art and Cinco de Mayo too!

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