Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez
08 December 1886
; Guanajuato, Mexico *
24 November 1957
; Mexico City, Mexico *
A Mexican muralist painter, Diego Rivera was an outspoken member of the Mexican communist party and husband to painter Frida Kahlo. Rivera began drawing at the age of three, one year after the death of his twin brother Carlos. His father built him a studio with chalkboard and canvas on the walls to keep him from drawing on the walls and furniture. At the age of ten, he studied at the Academy of San Carlos, and at the age of 21 was sponsored by the governor of Veracruz to study art in Europe. While in Europe, he traveled and studied in Madrid, Paris, and Italy, and befriended many of the famous Paris artists of the time, including Amadeo Modigliani, Ilya Ehrenburg, Chaim Soutine, Max Jacob, and Moise Kisling. He witnessed the birth of cubism, led by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, which he enthusiastically embraced, and was also inspired by the post-impressionism of Paul Cezanne.
Rivera returned to Mexico in 1921, and quickly became involved with a Mexican mural program sponsored by the Mexican government. His completed his first mural, Creation, at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, armed with a pistol, to defend himself from right-wing students. Rivera’s paintings exemplify his unique style of large, simplified figures with bold colors, and an Aztec influence. Many of them dealt with Mexican society and the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
After painting a series of murals in Mexico, Rivera’s travels brought him to the Soviet Union to take part in the anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution, and later to the United States with his wife Frida Kahlo. Rivera was a notorious womanizer, and was married five times throughout his lifetime, twice to Kahlo. His radical political beliefs, attacks on organized religion and his dealings with left-wing assassins made him a controversial figure while he alive, but the quality of his artwork surpassed his personal beliefs, and continued to be a successful painter until his death.