One of the most famous Mexico’s painters, Diego Rivera, was born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato
State, Mexico, on December 8, 1886. Diego began drawing when he was only three years old. His
father decided to build him a studio with canvas-covered walls and art supplies to keep Diego from
drawing on the walls and furniture. At the young age of 10, Diego decided he wanted to become an
artist. In 1897 Diego began studying painting at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico
City. His instructors taught him that a good drawing was the basis of a good painting. In Academy
Rivera learned how to produce three-dimensional effects. In 1902 Rivera was expelled from the
academy for leading a student protest. After that Rivera traveled throughout Mexico painting and
In 1907 Rivera traveled to Spain to study the works of Goya, El Greco, and Brueghel at Madrid’s
El Prado museum. Then in 1909 he moved to Paris, France. In Paris he was influenced by
impressionist painters. Later he worked in a postimpressionist style. During the years of 1913
to 1918, Diego Rivera devoted himself almost entirely to the cubist school of art. Some of the
artworks have Mexican themes, such as the Guerrillero (1915). By 1918 he was producing pencil
sketches of the highest quality, an example of which is his self-portrait. He continued his studies in
Europe, traveling throughout Italy learning techniques of fresco and mural painting before returning
to Mexico in 1921.
Rivera was painting large murals on walls in public buildings as he believed that all people
should be able to view the art that he was creating. Rivera had a great sense of color and an
enormous talent for structuring his works. Rivera’s first mural, the Creation (1922), in the Bolívar
Amphitheater at the University of Mexico, was the first important mural of the twentieth century.
Between 1923 and 1926 Rivera created frescoes in the Ministry of Education Building in Mexico
City. The frescoes in the Auditorium of the National School of Agriculture in Chapingo (1927) are
considered his masterpiece.
He rebelled against traditional school of painting and developed his own style that combined
historical, social and political ideas. Most of his artworks reflect cultural changes taking place
in Mexico and around the world in 20th century. Both his original painting style and the force of
his ideas made a great impact on America’s conception of public art. In San Francisco he painted
murals for the Stock Exchange Luncheon Club and the California School of Fine Arts. Two years
later he had an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. One of his most
important works is the fresco in the Detroit Institute of Arts (1933), which depicts industrial life
in the United States. After Rivera and Kahlo returned to Mexico, he painted a mural for the Palace
of Fine Arts in Mexico City (1934). In 1935 Rivera completed frescoes which showed Rivera’s
political beliefs and his support of Marxism.
Social realist muralist Diego Rivera remained a central force in the development of a national art in
Mexico throughout his life. He was a talented printmaker, sculptor and book illustrator. As a painter
of the people and for the people Diego did not want his art to be isolated in museums and galleries,
but made accessible to the people, spread on the walls of public buildings. For him, the frescoes’
size and public accessibility was the perfect canvas on which he could express himself and show the
history and future. It was a perfect canvas, because this kind of art could be seen to many people.
Diego Rivera believed that art should be enjoyed by everyone, no matter rich or poor people.
In 1909 he met a young Russian painter Angelina Belhoff who later became his common law wife
for the next twelve years. In 1922, he married Guadalupe Marin, whom he met while on travels in
Mexico to study the various landscapes and history. In 1928, he met Frida Kahlo, his third wife.
They married in 1929, the year he was also appointed the head of the Department of Plastic Crafts
at the Ministry of Education. In 1954 his wife Frida Kahlo died. One year later, he married Emma
Hurtado, his dealer since 1946. Diego Rivera died of heart failure in Mexico City on November 25,
1957. He was buried in the Rotunda of Famous Men in Civil Pantheon of Mourning. Nowadays his
artworks are hung in museums around the world. Some of the most famous Diego Rivera paintings
include: Peasants and Nude with Calla Lilies.