Diego Rivera: Cheatsheet. This page helped the decathlon team of 2000 achieve 2nd place!

Diego Rivera: Mexican Artist/ Muralist/ Activist

Born: Dec. 13, 1886 in Guanajuato Mexico

Died: 1957 of Heart failure

Artistic focus: Neoclassicist painting that emphasized simplicity and colorful painting. His works tried to recover precolumbian Mexican history by including significant moments in Mexican History. The earth, the farmer, the laborer, the customs, as well as popular figures were typical in his paintings.


Diego’s Biography


Moved to Mexico City in 1892 with his family.

In Mexico City, he studied at the San Carlos Academy under carving artist Jose Guadalupe Posada, who became a major influence in his artistic career.

In 1904 he paints both figures as well as landscapes in the style of Jose Maria Velasco. Two of these paintings are "La era" and "La castaneda".

In 1906 Diego Paints a self portrait and has some works exhibited at San Carlos. Self portraits were common because most artists could not afford to hire models.

In 1907 Diego moves to Spain where he studies under spanish realist Eduardo Chicharro. While in Spain, Diego hangs around with avant-garde crowd which as an influence on his painting style.

In 1909 Diego moves to Paris. While in Paris he travels to Bruges where he meets Angeline Beloff, who will become his common-law wife. At this time Diego is still painting Landscapes.

In 1913, Diego changes his painting style to Cubism. This change was influenced by meeting Pablo Picasso, the father of Cubism while he was in Paris. Cubism deliberately avoided painting objects the way they appear in real life. Instead objects are broken down into simple geometric shapes, and avoid traditional rules of art and avoided using horizon lines and proper perspective. In 1913 he paints "Adoration of the Virgin and Child", which was his first work to incorportate elements of cubism. In 1913 he also painted "Portrait of Adolfo Best Maugard". This painting is unique because it incorporated Mayan and Aztec art styles which include using straight lines, undulating lines, zig zags, circles, half-circles, spirals and S shapes. The painting is also unique in that it appears as though the ferris wheel is balanced on Aldolfo Maugard’s finger.

What’s also changing about Diego’s works are that they are starting to become more brightly colored. For example, in "Zapatista Landscape" as well as in the "Portrait of Martin Luis Guzman" he uses vivid blues as well as reds. Diego also used the patterns that might be found on a Mexican blanket. Diego at this point was starting to incorportate native or folk art into his works.

In 1916 Diego invents a device called "la chose", to help him plot planar refrations on his canvases.

In 1917 Diego gets into an argument with Revendy, which leads to physical fight and leads to a break from that artistic influence. After the altercation, Diego puts more focus on Ingres-drawing and the works of Cezanne. In 1917 he also meets Elie Faure who he maintains a lifelong friendship.

In 1920 Diego becomes fascinated by Renaissance Art goes to Italy to study the works of Renoir. The influence of "large art" pieces of Cezanne and Renoir and their goal of bringing art to the masses eventually led to Diego’s focus on Mural painting.

In 1921 Diego moves back to Mexico to live and travels to Yucatan see the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza dn Uxmal. Here he meets Lupe Marin.

In 1921 Diego creates the work "Study of a Sleeping Woman". This piece used crayon on paper and was an example of neoclassicism. Neoclassicism was a revival of an ancient Greek style that was revived in the Italian Renaissance. Neoclassicism shows the woman, large in size, enough to fill the entire paper. Diego purposely did the work in black and white to convey a somber mood.

In 1922 Diego begins work on the mural "Creation" in the Anfiteatro Bolivar of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria. This mural shows the italian neoclassicism influence. During the same year he marries Guadalupe Marin. During 1922 Diego travels to Tehuantepec, where the people he meets and the beauty of the area influence the artist. Diego’s murals began to celebrate the Mexican Revolution and the victory over repression, and he put an empahsis on providing a visual record of modern Mexico. Many of his murals depict the history of Mexico. In most cases if you look at the bottom of a Diego Rivera mural, you will notice ancient Aztecs depicted.

1923-24 Diego begins work on the "East wall of the Secretaria de Educacion Publica". The first panel shows appreciation to the people of Tehuantepec. During this year the press attacks the Preparatoria murals and the students at the school riot in protest to the painting. The students present a petition stating that they wanted the mural discontinued and eventually the students deface the mural. In 1924 Diego begins a mural on the administration building at the "Escuela Nacional de Agricultura" in Chapingo.

1925 Finishes all the murals in the court of fiestas and continues on to the second and third floors of the building. In the same year "Flower Day" is included in an exhibition in Los Angeles and wins the purchase prize. "Flower Day" shows a figure carrying the flowers and it also shows three girls on their knees. Historians believe that the painting honors the ancient Mexican tradition of dedicating flowers to a god of flowers and festivals.

In 1926 Diego began his mural program at the Chapel of Chapingo and continues to work on the Secretaria murals.

In 1927 Diego completes the Chapingo murals. He also travels to the Soviet Union to participate in the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution of the Communist takeover.

In 1928 he returns to Mexico where he breaks up with Lupe Marin. He meets Frida Kahlo. He finishes the Secretaria series.

In 1929 he is appointed director of the Academy of San Carlos. In this year he begins a mural of the History of Mexico in the main stairway of the Palacio Nacional. Rivera paints six large nudes which symbolize purity, strength, knowledge, life, continence, and health in the conference room of the Secretaria de Salubridad y Asistencia. He also designed four stained glass windows on the theme of the element August. He marries Frida Kahlo the same year. Diego is expelled from the Mexican Communist Party for disobediance to its policies. The U.S Ambassador commissions him to paint a mural for the loggia of the Palacio de Cortes in Cuernavaca.

In 1930 Diego is forced to resign as director. He finishes the Cuernavaca mural. He comes to San Francisco to begin work on "Allegory of California".

In 1931 he finishes the "Allegory for California" piece and begins "The making of a Fresco" in the Gallery of the California School of the Arts.

In 1932 the art commission for the City of Detroit approves of Diego painting murals for the garden court of the Detroit Institute of Art. The focus of the "Man and Industry" murals was to show the strengths of Detroit industry, with the whole project funded by Edsel Ford. In the same year Diego was commissioned to create nine murals in the main Corridor of the lobby of the RCA building in New York. The same year Diego paints Open Air School. This piece is an example of a lithograph and the theme is of mothers or teachers reading to students in an outdoor school. The piece shows more girls than boys and it is designed to show the importance of education in Mexico’s future. In the background of the Lithograph shows people farming the fields under the watchful eye of someone with a rifle. This is to give the viewer the idea that education is the escape from hard labor and being repressed.

In 1933 the Detroit paintings are completed. Diego begins work on a mural in the RCA building named "Man at the Crossroads". The original idea was that the mural was supposed to show a man at the crossroads looking with hope and high vision to choosing a new and better future. Abby Rockefeller visits the site and praises the section depicting Soviet May Day demonstrations. Nelson Rockefeller asks Rivera to replace the face of Lenin with that of an anonymous individual. Rivera offers to substitute Abraham Lincoln and the other 19th century North American figures to offset Lenin. The RCA dismisses Rivera and covers his work with canvas. Rivera paints the New Workers School. The same year Diego and Frida sail back for Mexico.

In 1934 Rivera signs a contract to reproduce the RCA murals on a wall at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. In 1935 Diego continues working on the Palacio Nacional. The Mural depicts Rivera and Siqueiros, both holding pistols, attacking each other.

In 1936 Diego is commissioned to paint a mural on the Hotel Reforma in Mexico City. In the same year Diego assists in granting political assylum to Leon and Natalia Trotsky from the Soviet Union.

By 1939 Trotsky breaks off his friendship with Diego dute to his lack of support of Socialism. In 1940 Frida and Diego separate only to get back together while Diego visits San Francisco.

1943 Diego paints a mural dedicated to the history of Cardiology at the Instituto Nacional de Cardiologia. He also teaches composition and painting at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura y Escultura.

1944 Diego begins moasic decoration of Anahuacalli with pre-conquest motifs. He also returns to Palacio Nacional and paints the "Great City of Tenochtitlan".

1947 Diego Begins the mural "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda" for the Hotel del Prado. The mural contains the slogan "God does not exist", and creates a scandal, with the result that the mural be kept from the public for nine years. The same year he returns to chapingo and paints doorway panels with portraits of presidents Manuel Avila Camacho and Alvaro Obregon.

1950 Diego designs the scenery for Jose Revuelta’s play "Quarter of Solitude".

1951 Paints murals that were originally intended to be submerged underwater. At the Lerma Waterworks. The paint was a special mixture of polystyrene and liquid rubber. The mural is a mosaic, that depicts the rain God Tlaloc.

1952 Diego paints "the Nightmere of War and the Dream of Peace" in which appears Stalin, and Mao Tsetung. The director of the IBNA association refuses to exhibit the work and removes it from the Palacio Nacional de Bellas Artes.

1953. Diego is commissioned to create a mural for the facade of the new Teatro Insurgentes. He also begins the mural "The People’s Demand for better health for the Hospital de la Raza". The same year he the "Nightmere" painting is sent to China to be viewed by Mao Tsetung.

1954 Kahlo’s last public appearance as she and Rivera participate in a protest against the CIA’s ousting of Guatemala’s president. Frida Kahlo dies the same year.

1955 Diego marries Emma Hurtado. He sets up a trust fund to turn Kahlo’s home and Anahuacalli into museums. Diego leaves for the Soviet Union the same year. Diego recieves an operation and begins receiving colbalt treatments. He continues making drawings and notes during his recovery.

1957 Diego Dies of heart failure in his San Angel studio. He is buried in the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres at the pantheon of Dolores, Mexico City.


Diego’s Works

(Please refer to Diego's Autobiography above to help explain why he painted what he painted and when.)


Murals that can be found at the Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo:

"La Crecion" aka The Creation Story

"La Ofrenda" aka Dead Day

"Fuerzas Controladads" aka Liberated Forces

"El Buen Gobierno" aka The Good Government

"El Reparto de Tierras" aka Dividing up the Land

"Los Explotadores" aka The Exploitors

"Fuerzas Subterraneas" aka Subterranean Forces

"Sangre de los Martires" aka The Blood of the Martyrs


Murals that can be found at the Palacio Nacional:

"La Gran Tenochtitlan" aka Great Tenochtitlan

"El Mundo Azteca" aka The Aztec World

"La Conquista" aka The Conquest

"La Conquista II" aka The Conquest, left side

"La Conquista III" aka The Conquest, right side


Mural that can be found at Rockefeller Center:

"Man at the Crossroads" aka Hombre en una Encrucijada or Rockefeller Center Mural. Not completed


Mural that can be found at Palacio de Bellas Artes:

"Man at the Crossroads" aka Hombre en una Encrucijada redone here


Mural that can be found at Carcamo del Rio Lerma: aka Lerma Water Works.

"El agua, Origen de la vida" aka Water: The Origin of Life


Murals that can be found in San Francisco:

San Francisco Stock Exchange

"The making of a Fresco" aka La Elaboracion de un Fresco. Found at California School of the Arts.


Murals that can be found at the Detroit Institute of Art

Front wall

East wall

West wall

South wall

Paintings of Diego Rivera:

"La Castaneda" aka Paseo deo lo Melancolicos de Toledo 1904

"La Era" 1904

"La Calle de Avila" aka The street of Avila 1908

"Retrato de Angelina Beloff" aka Portrait of Angelina Beloff

"Los Viejos" aka The Old ones, or as En Las Afueras de Toledo 1912

"Retrato de Adolfo Best Maugard" aka Portrait of Adolfo Best Maugard

"El Arquitecto" aka The Architect

"Maternidad" aka Motherhood

"El Mathematico" aka The Mathematician

"En el Vinedo" aka The Vineyard

"La Molendera" aka The Grinder 1924

"Dia de la Flor" aka Flower Day 1925

"Espalda Desnuda de una Mujer Sentada" aka Back of Seated Nude 1926

"Fiesta Tehuana" aka Dance in Tehuantepec 1928

"Vendedor de Flores" aka The Flower Vendor or Flower Carrier 1935

"Vendedora de Pinole" aka The Pinole Vendor 1936

"Las Ilusiones" 1944

"Desnudo con Alcatraces" aka Nude with Calla Lilies 1944

"Vendedora de Flores" aka The Flower Vendor (with woman selling flowers) 1949

"Estudio del Maestro" aka The Painter's Studio 1954

"Retrato de Dolores Olmedo" aka Portrait of Dolores Olmedo 1955

"Retrato de Natasha Gellman" aka Portrait of Natasha Gellman 1957

"Las Sandias" aka The Watermelons 1957

"Desfile del 10 de Mayo in Moscu" aka May Day Procession in Moscow 1956

"Mujer Recogiendo Nieve" aka Woman Picking snow 1955

"Irene Phillips Olmedo" aka Portrait of Irene Phillips 1955

"Cara Tehuana" aka Head of Tehuana 1936

"Mujeres Peinadose" aka Woman combing hair 1957

"Frozen Assets" aka Bien Congelados 1931

Copyright 2000 by LASA Educational Resources. Last Revised Feb. 21, 2000. This webpage was hand created by C. Landinguin. Note: This page is for SPAD use only. Any unauthorized use by non SPAD members may lead to Cerebral Implosion and Legal Stress.