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This mural is sometimes known as Mexico Today and Tomorrow, or alternatively as The World of Today and Tomorrow. It is a complex composition which forms just one element of a much larger project completed by Diego Rivera over the period of several years.
His work was aimed at visualising the history of Mexico, concentrating on several events within its history. The murals still remain today in their original positions and would be particularly hard to remove because of how Rivera painted directly into the individual features of the architecture, rather than on to a portable board or canvas. This mural method also explains why so many of the original Italian Renaissance frescoes would become impossible to move and so many still remain in their same locations today as well. Rivera studied the great Italian artists of the Renaissance, and some just before such as Giotto, but his artistic style was very different, as shown by the artwork here, The World of Today and Tomorrow. This series of murals was amongst his highest profile and most demanding commissions, though it also helped to establish his reputation as one of the most famous Mexican artists of all time.
The mural series was applied to the internal walls of the National Palace in Mexico City and is a popular attraction to this impressive venue. Rivera worked on these paintings during the years of 1929 to 1935, making it one of his largest and most complex projects, though he was delighted to take on this high profile commission. Rivera was proud of his Mexican roots, even after all his travels abroad, and also was interested in history and politics, leaving him well placed to design and implement these artworks. Many prefer to learn visually rather than from text, and so this type of art is ideal for explaining some of the key events to have occurred in Mexico over previous centuries. Rivera would become known as a muralist, first and foremost, thanks to work such as this, but he actually produced many other traditional oil paintings and drawings too.
The overall theme of the murals would focus on the difficulties experienced by the common people of Mexico. The peasants and working poor had been through a procession of turmoil via a number of different rulers, none of whom had really ever shown them respect or care. Rivera wanted to illustrate this to the wider world and was gifted this opportunity by the palace administrators at that time who wanted to celebrate Mexico in a manner which was memorable and entirely appropriate to the artistic style of this nation, rather than just following western methods. Rivera would therefore be the ideal choice, as an experienced artist who understood many different methods but who also felt a natural connection with the people of this nation.