The Grinder (Woman Grinding Maize) Diego Rivera Buy Art Prints Now
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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
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The Grinder is a painting by Diego Rivera from 1924 which can now be found in the National Museum of Art in Mexico City, Mexico. It is entirely consistent with the main body of work from this artist's career, which focused on the lives of ordinary Mexicans.

In front of us here we find a middle aged Mexican woman leaning over whilst crouched on the floor. She firmly holds a rolling pin with both hands and moved it up and down in order to flatten the dough which lies beneath. To the side we see a small table on which a number of other doughs can be found, though these have already been rolled and cut into circles, ready for the baking process. This arduous task within The Grinder shows on the expression of this woman, who looks down in a tired manner, eager to complete this part of the traditional cooking method. It is notable that she does the rolling whilst on the floor, which increases the feeling of her difficult role within her family, and the challenging nature of her daily routine. Rivera was always sensitive to the lives of those in his community that were living hand to mouth and scenes of peasant life would appear many times over across his career. One will find a very similar atmosphere with related paintings such as The Flower Carrier and Flower Vendor.

We can understand many of the textures found in this painting, with the heavy base on which she works, to the lighter touch of the dough. Perhaps her skin may also have hardened as a result of performing these arduous tasks (hence, The Grinder) for many years, though she would not have complained about this as people at that time in Mexico would simply carry on with pride and hardwork. Her clothing is a charming but simple white dress which would have been hardwearing in order to last the lady's long days. Her hair is platted in a pretty manner but presumably was done so not so much for aesthetic reasons but instead for the purposes of not interfering with her work. Her arms and shoulders are noticeably strong and muscular, suggesting that performing these tasks for many years has slowly altered her body shape. The artist includes very little detail other than the woman and her domestic instruments, with just a simple blue band of colour cutting across the wall behind.

Rivera would capture the lives of both peasant men and women, covering the domestic toil for the latter as well as the agricultural role for the former. In some cases he would actually put the two together within the same painting and would never ignore the role of women within society as some other male artists had previously done. Despite his reputation as a womaniser, this artist respected and understood the importance of this gender within society and consistently included it within his work in a manner which underlined this. His connection to Frida Kahlo would also likely have increased this, but he was already thinking in that way previously. Rivera arrived from Europe eager to apply some of his stylistic developments to Mexican themes, and we can find one example of that here within The Grinder.