Liberation of the Peon 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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Liberation of the Peon is an extraordinary adaptation of Giotto's Lamentation of Christ, many centuries later. Rivera was a follower of European art and it would influence many of his artistic ideas, though he would never lose his strong connection to his Mexican roots.

Rivera themes the same content in a Mexican manner, featuring a Mexican farm workers who has been butchered to death. The artist was always on the side of the poorer parts of society and essentially lifts the status of this figure to that of Christ in the Lamentation. Some revolutionary soldiers attend to his body and offer sympathy for his brutal ending. The fires raging in the background represent an uprising in which the oppressors have been over turned and their tools destroyed. This painting therefore represents many topics which feel particularly relevant today, such as the resistance to colonising nations, as well as the banding together of normal people in the hope of strenghening their hand. Rivera wanted more power to these people and hoped that by bringing exposure to their situation, that more might be done to help them. This devotion to his people is also why Rivera would receive so many commissions from public bodies who pinpointed him as a true patriot and someone who could deliver exactly the right murals within a number of public institutions.

One can draw the conclusion that Rivera saw his own natives as oppressed, similar to Christ in religious scripture. He therefore felt that his people were on the right side of history and that hopefully they would one day overcome the challenges which had been placed upon them for several centuries, even leading into the 20th century to some degree. It was entirely rare for a successful international artist to address issues such as this from the point of view of the oppressed, but his standing in the art world enabled Rivera to do this and still continue to enjoy considerable international support, even within Spain. He also travelled around that country too, and so was not against the nation entirely, just specifically their treatment of Mexicans in past centuries. He was also aware that many wealthy Mexicans had also entirely benefited from some of these opportunities and so he also blamed elements within his own country for some of the treatment of the working poor. Experts have suggested that this painting is based in the region in which the Mexican Revolution first began, the north, based on the landscape featured within this work.

The punished worker is freed from the pole on which he has been tied and left to die. One cuts the ropes with a knife whilst two others take him away for burial. The victim's body displays whipping marks and he is wrapped in an orange cloth in order to restore just a small element of dignity to the sad situation. Their horses relax behind, unaware of the brutality of what has happened whilst another soldier stares in disbelief as he attends to the horses by himself. Rolling hills cut across the background whilst the estate burns to the ground, no doubt as a result of these soldiers who would have been there earlier, prior to discovering this poor individual in the foreground. Rivera regularly focused on the difficult lives of the Mexican peasantry, but rarely with as much emotion as this, which was entirely inspired by the experiences of Jesus Christ and the work about that by Italian artist, Giotto in his Lamentation of Christ.