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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

This biography captures the journey of a charismatic Mexican artist who would become integral to the nation's Muralist movement as well as promoting the lives of his poor, native countrymen right across the world. His name was Diego Rivera.

Artist Rivera found a passion for drawing at an early age and would frequently fine tune his skills in this medium as a young child. At that stage, no-one would have predicted the heights to which his artistic talents would later rise. He joined the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City at the age of 10 and was already starting to show promise - he would now start to receive the necessary training required to make the most of his potential. Even at this early stage his own character was starting to show, consistently confident and bold with his claims and also the ambitions that he held for his life to come. That said, no-one could have imagined at that point just quite the level of achievements that he would go on to make, as well as the strength of reputation that he built right across Mexico and the western world.

The Influence of Europe on Diego Rivera

He would travel to Europe in 1907 and from this point onwards his artistic education would develop significantly. His time here was both to learn but also to create a career, both of which worked to a certain degree. The European art scene fully embraced the young Rivera, with his bold character enabling him to build friendships with several famous artists, including Pablo Picasso. He was later quoted discussing the genius of the Spaniard. Additionally he would also study artwork from other great names even if he was unable to meet them in person. These names include Matisse and Gauguin. Others French artists known to have inspired Rivera in various ways include Paul Cézanne, Henri Rousseau and André Breton. Beyond France he would study the Renaissance frescoes of Italy and these introduced him to the concept of large-scale art, such as murals. European art has long since been inspired by styles from other continents and cultures, and Rivera would reverse this direction of influence by taking elements of these inspiring frescoes into his own career. The techniques that he learnt and fostered would provide the basis to his series of murals, though the content would be very much his own selection.



Returning to Mexico

The artist chose to return to Mexico due to political instabilities in other parts of the world. It was an opportunity to reconnect with his roots, and potentially discover new sources of inspiration for his work. He may also view his home country with a slightly different perspective, having travelled around so many other nations during that point in his career. It was at this point that he decided to begin capturing ordinary lives of the working poor within his work. He felt compassion for their struggles and also saw a beauty in their lives that needed capturing, with so many other artists having historically turned their backs on the poor, in favour of more fashionable, sellable themes. He would now combine the history of his native Mexico with the artistic techniques of the Italian frescoes in order to produce some extraordinary highlights that dominate his career oeuvre.

Achieving International Recognition

The Artist's Latter Years