Diego Rivera (Guanajuato, Mexico, 1886 - Mexico City, 1957) is, along with José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, the most accomplished example of a Mexican muralist. Beyond the devotion that exists for him in Mexico as leader of the artistic revolution that has made his figure reach almost heroic dimensions, his international prestige is unquestionable.
In 1907, Rivera arrives in Spain as a student of prominent Spanish realist Eduardo Chicharro and Agüera. During that time he studies and copies masterpieces from the Prado, feeling particularly drawn to the dark paintings of Francisco de Goya, as well as those of El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Pieter Brueguel, Lucas Cranach and El Bosco. In Madrid he comes into contact with the Spanish avant-garde through Ramon Gomez de la Serna, Ramon del Valle Inclán and María Blanchard. Added to this are many other artistic and European avant-garde influences with whom he came into contact through subsequent stays in Paris and Italy. After a brief cubist period and extremely inspired by frescoes of Quattrocento Italian painters he returns to Mexico in 1921, where his style matures and he has a continuous flow of commissions. The triumph of the Mexican revolution and new prospects opened by Minister of Education José Vasconcelos fit in perfectly with Rivera’s ideologies in such a way that the painter freely expressed himself in his productions leading the way for Mexican muralists. Rivera becomes one of the artists most in demand in the United States in the early thirties and his murals were exhibited in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Detroit.
This retrospective exhibition celebrates the centenary of the birth of the artist and is the largest body of work shown to date from the Mexican painter, even though there have been exhibitions of the artist's closest allies; in Spain there has previously been exhibitions on the work of Ben Shahn, artist and assistant to Rivera during work on the Rockefeller Center mural; Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Mexican photographer and friend of the painter and Frida Kahlo, painter and wife of Rivera. These three exhibitions have brought the Spanish public closer to the muralist, but it is not until 1987 that a significant body of his works has been exhibited in our country.
This retrospective exhibition is made up of one hundred oil paintings, over a hundred drawings, watercolours and illustrations for books and a 35-minute film on large murals by Rivera. This exhibition features works representing each stage of the painter’s career from various institutional and private collections. From the paintings on display, forty-nine are from Mexican Dolores Olmedo’s collection, a friend of Rivera.
This exhibition combines with the photography exhibition called Diego Rivera y su México a través del ojo de la cámara which is exhibiting at the same time as the retrospective exhibition in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and includes a number of portraits of Rivera, his family and friends as well as images of people and landscapes of Mexico.
Detroit Institute of Arts, USA (February 10 - April 27, 1986); Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA (June 2 - August 10, 1986); Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (September 29, 1986 - January 4, 1987); Stäatliche Kunsthalle, Berlin (July 23 - September 15, 1987); Hayward Gallery, Arts Council of Great Britain, London (October 29, 1987 - January 10, 1988)