artist / participant

press release

Drawn from the collection of the Museum of Art of the State of Veracruz in Orizaba, Mexico, the 36 works in this exhibition survey the career of Diego Rivera, including his earliest work in Mexico, where he was nurtured in the classical tradition as a student of the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City. In the first two decades of the 1900s, Rivera was part of the international avant-garde movement that gathered in Paris. There, his paintings took on the influence of Impressionism, and later, when he was a colleague of Picasso, Cubism. The exhibition culminates with examples of Rivera's monumental paintings of Mexican rural subjects for which he is best known.

This exhibition, shown only at Joslyn, is the first time that this collection of Rivera works has traveled as a group outside of Mexico. It is part of an art and cultural exchange that commenced in mid-2007 when Joslyn sent an exhibition of thirty 19th-century European paintings from its collection to Xalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz and a sister city of Omaha.

Considered the greatest Mexican painter of the 20th century, Rivera had a profound effect on the international art world. Among his many contributions, Rivera is credited with the reintroduction of fresco painting into modern art and architecture. His radical political views and tempestuous marriage to the painter Frida Kahlo were then, and remain today, a source of public intrigue.

Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1886, Rivera began to study painting at an early age. In 1907 he moved to Europe, spending most of the next 14 years in Paris, where he encountered the works of such masters as Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, and Matisse. In search of a new form of painting that could express the complexities of his day and yet reach a wide audience, Rivera began to study the Renaissance frescoes of Italy. Returning to Mexico, Rivera utilized the fresco medium — mural paintings done on fresh plaster — to introduce his work into the everyday lives of the people. A life-long Marxist, Rivera saw the frescoes' size and public accessibility as an antidote to the elite walls of galleries and museums. Throughout the 1920s he produced numerous large murals depicting scenes from Mexican history. In the growing industrial societies of the 1930s, Rivera saw the workers' struggle as a symbol of the fragile political ground on which capitalism trod. His views are expressed in major works in the United States, where he continued to investigate the struggles of the working class in his art. Among these are murals for the American Stock Exchange Luncheon Club and the California School of Fine Arts. Automobile giant Henry Ford commissioned a paean to the American worker on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Rivera remained a central force in the development of a national art in Mexico until his death in 1957.

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Diego Rivera
Masterworks from the Museo de Arte del Estado de Veracruz