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Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

Diego Rivera was born in the city of Guanajuato, northwest of Mexico City in 1886. He went to Mexico City to study art at the San Carlos Academy in 1906 at the age of ten. When he was twenty he was awarded a scholarship to study in Europe, where he lived and worked for fifteen years. He returned to Mexico on a short visit in 1910-1911.

In 1921 Rivera, after returning to Mexico, Rivera and several other artists traveled to the Yucatán to study Mayan ruins at Uxmal and Chichén Itzá. The next year he visited the Isthmus of Tehuantepec where he made sketches of indigenous people. In 1923 Rivera was appointed head of the Department of Plastic Crafts at the Ministry of Education, a post he held until 1928. While in this position, he and his assistants painted 235 individual fresco panels covering 15,000 square feet. Sometimes Rivera was paid only the equivalent of two US dollars for his mural painting, and so he supplemented his income with easel painting. In November and December of 1927 Rivera traveled to the Soviet Union where he made sketches for a mural in the Red Army Club, which he never painted. Rivera was a long-term (though sometimes expelled) member of the Mexican Communist Party.

In the early 1930s Rivera was invited to paint a number of important murals in the United States: in Detroit at the Institute of Fine Arts; in San Francisco at the Stock Exchange, Art Institute, and City College; in New York at the New School for Social Research and at Rockefeller Center. Controversy surrounded several of these commissions. Some San Franciscans took offense at how Rivera included himself in one of his murals. He painted himself on a scaffold with his back to viewers. A much larger controversy arose when newspapers in New York City reported that Rivera was painting a Communist mural in Rockefeller Center. Even though there had been considerable negotiation about theme and subject matter, Rivera's inclusion of an image of Lenin in the painting came as a surprise to Rockefeller, who asked Rivera to replace the image with the face of someone unknown. After Rivera refused, Rockefeller would not allow Rivera to complete the mural and had it covered with canvas. Rockefeller paid Rivera's commission in full. In February 1934 he had the almost completed mural chipped from the wall. After Rivera returned to Mexico he repainted the mural, Man at the Crossroads , in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. In 1940 he returned to San Francisco to paint a mural at the San Francisco Golden Gate Exhibition.

While in Europe, Diego Rivera married Russian artist, Angeline Beloff (1911 - 21). They had one child who died before reaching the age of two. He was married to his second wife, Guadalupe Marín, from 1922 -27. She was the mother of his two daughters. He married, divorced, and remarried the Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo (1929-39 and 1940-54). After she died, in the last year of his life, he married his long-time dealer, Emma Hurtado.

When Rivera was diagnosed with cancer in 1955, he is quoted as saying "What a damned bother!" and kept on painting. He died in Mexico City in 1957.