After the Mexican Revolution, the country was in ruins. Its reconstruction required a plan that would involve different sectors, including the artistic and cultural. In this context, Muralism was not only an aesthetic movement where its members exposed their technical capabilities, but also a purpose to project a national identity in the international arena. Not all the links between State and art are harmful: Muralism also allowed humble people who do not have access to art to observe the works of these artists in their day-to-day lives. In addition to that some muralists – such as Siqueiros, Rivera and Orozco – became true emblems of Mexican art. We selected 5 of Diego Rivera’s most representative murals to get closer to his work.
1. La creación (1922)
The first mural made by Diego Rivera was assigned by the then secretary of education José Vasconcelos. It is a work that announces the interests that Rivera will bring to a paroxysm in his following works: a geometric composition where all the elements that make up the mural coexist harmoniously, religious motifs and characters that, seen up close, tell a story. On the left side there is an allegory of song, music and dance. The theological virtues are also exposed: faith, hope and charity. On the right side is the fable, erotic poetry and tragedy.
2. Murales de la industria de Detroit (1932)
After the crisis of 1929, the United States tried to rebuild the country in different ways. In Detroit the auto industry made some attempts related to art and culture. Edsel Ford asked Diego Rivera to decorate the interior of the Detroit Institute of Arts. And Diego Rivera produced a series of colossal murals where he captured the work process of the automotive industry from the point of view of the workers. The murals combine elements of the language of pre-Columbian art with Cubism and Futurism. Rivera worked for 9 months on 27 panels that were criticized for their communist perspective. Today they are recognized as true works of art.
3. El hombre controlador del universo (1934)
Rivera had a reputation as a genius artist whose murals were not only visually appealing but also told stories using resources from different artistic currents. Thus, in 1933 he met with the millionaire and businessman Rockefeller to create a mural. The mural was approved. However, Diego Rivera included an image of Vladimir Lenin, a hammer and sickle. So Rockefeller decided to break the deal. A year later, Mexican President Abelardo L. Rodíguez asked him to make a replica of that project to decorate el Palacio de Bellas Artes of Mexico City and the result was this powerful image where Rivera does not abandon the themes that interest him most: the power of the machine, the perspective of the workers, the role of society in the consolidation of the capitalist system.
4. Epopeya del pueblo mexicano (1929-1935)
Located in the National Palace of Mexico, this work synthesizes the interests of the relationship between the State and Muralism: very attractive images where a story of struggle and redemption is told. Epopeya del pueblo mexicano exhibits some passages of transcendence for the history of Mexico. And it adds some Marxist touches: an ideology that resonated with force throughout Muralism. It is one of the most emblematic works of Mexican art of that time.
5. Sueño de una tarde en la Alameda Central (1947)
It is one of Diego Rivera’s most personal pieces of art. Located in the Diego Rivera Museum, in this mural the artist sees himself as a child taking a tour of the Alameda Central in Mexico City. In that journey he meets emblematic characters for Mexican culture, such as the Catrina, Benito Juárez, Zapata or his wife Frida Kahlo. Both the protagonists of the mural and the colors that Rivera used make up a portrait of Mexican culture. It is one of the most important murals of the artist born on December 8 in 1886.