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Rivera Paintings

Diego Rivera showed himself to be a gifted artist from a young age. He studied at the Academy of San Carlos until he was expelled at the age of sixteen following a student strike. With the help of his father Rivera won a scholarship to study abroad. In 1907 the young artist found himself in Europe where he spent the majority of the next 14 years of his life.

It was around this time that Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque began experimenting with a form of art called cubism. Between 1913 and 1917 we see that Rivera began to successfully experiment with cubism. Cubism is not his most popularly known medium however it played an important role in his development as an artist. It is in his cubist pieces that we see his themes of nationalism and politics begin to emerge.

Rivera’s cubist pieces depict the use of multiple perspectives as well as the fractured forms that Picasso and Braque used. However, we also see River’s strong contrast of textures and a variety of techniques such as pointillism. His cubism pieces also typically have brighter colors and are on a larger scale making them distinctive from his counterparts.

Rivera produced some two hundred works in cubism. Eventually his cubist style became more sobering and less political. By 1918 he had abandoned the use of cubism all together.

By about 1917, Rivera found himself influenced by the works of Paul Cezanne and he began to shift his sights to a post-impressionism style with simple forms and vivid colors in large patches. During travels through Italy in 1919 Rivera began to study Renaissance frescoes of great Italian masters. In 1921 Rivera returned to Mexico with new ideas about the possibilities of public art in Mexico. On the walls of universities and public buildings Rivera presented his work to the everyday people.

His first mural, Creation, was painted in the Bolivar Amphitheater at the National Preparatory School. He used an encaustic technique on this mural where color was mixed with other materials and then heated after its application. After this first mural attempt Rivera soon perfected a traditional fresco technique. Instead of using the traditional European symbolism he created his own style mixing an influence of the Aztecs with Cubism and Rousseau.

The 1920s saw a growth to Rivera’s fame as he created murals that spoke of the history of technology and its progress. In 1930 Rivera traveled to the United States to work on commissions. In these he continued to investigate the struggles of the life of the working class. His most significant mural created in the United States is that which was painted during the Great Depression in 1932 on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The 27 fresco panels, titled Detroit Industry, portray industrial life in the United States.