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The Rural Schoolteacher was an important painting by Diego Rivera for which he produced a number of highly detailed drawings in preparation for this final piece. This painting is now believed to reside at the Ministry of Public Education in Mexico City.
In front of us here we see a scene of traditional life within Mexico, something that Diego Rivera would focus on many times across his career. We find a clear divide in the gender roles within society at that time, with women busily teaching the local childern whilst the men look on whilst providing protection and manual support. The artist also carefully crafts this composition so that the stunning environment of his nation can also be included across the background, with rolling hills decorating the far distance. A tone of sandy yellow dominates much of the painting and sets the scene for this barren landscape. The clothing worn here is pragmatic and hard wearing, allowing these families to survive within this setting even without much money. They continue to educate the young, understanding that this offers the best route out of their situation and both boys and girls are treated equally at that stage. The teacher herself is the title of this piece, and the artist produced several studies of this group, underlining its importance within the overall painting.
Another point to note is how they ages of the children being taught varies considerably, which can be a common situation within rural communities where there are not enough resources to teach children by specific age groups. Several very young children look on, sat alongside older girls who appear more connected to the words of the teacher. They are all obedient and motivated, suggesting a strong family upbringing and an understanding of the collective importance of education, plus there may also have been very few distractions in Mexico at that time, as compared to today. One armed horseman sits on horseback alongside the school teacher and children as if to offer protection whilst in the background we see a large number of men in darkened clothing working hard in the hot sunshine. There are several additional figures in the far distance who are added to provide some level of perspective to the artwork.
The artist would receive a large number of commissions across his career and many would be for public institutions across Mexico who wanted him to produce upbeat depictions of his nation. Many of these would have strong socialist values which were also very much inkeeping with his own political persuasions. He remains most famous as a muralist and enjoyed the huge scale of these artworks, though was more than accomplished in smaller pieces for which he would use oil normally, though sometimes watercolours. Rivera was also a talented draughtsman and that medium would sit behind his paintings, as the rough base on which he would layer up with oils to add colour and bring his forms to life. Many regard him as a member of the Social Realism movement, but he was actually involved in a number of different genres.