One of the Most Prominent Painters that You Don't Know How to Pronounce
Updated: Mar 6
Author: Constantine Hatzis, Policy Director of the ECC;
Editor: Bincheng Mao, Chairman of ECC
When it comes to prominent painters, people rarely think of Diego Rivera (December 8, 1886 – November 24, 1957). Yet, without a doubt, he was one of the most influential painters of Mexico, if not the entire Latin America. His spectacular frescoes helped establish the mural movement in Mexican and international art.
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, also known as Diego Rivera was a famous Mexican painter during the early 1900s. His unique style of fresco art helped establish a mural movement in Mexican and international art. His name, the shortened one, is pronounced as [djeɣo riˈβeɾa], which is a lot easier to pronounce than his full name. His full name is pronounced as, [djeɣo maˈɾia ðe la kõnsɛpˈsjõŋ ˈxwãn nepomuˈseno ɛstaˈnis̬lao ðe la riˈβeɾa i̯ baˈrjɛ̃n̪tos aˈkosta i̯ /roˈðɾiɣes] Diego painted murals around the world, including his home country of Mexico. He painted frescoes which are paintings of water-based pigments on freshly applied plaster, and these are usually on walls.
After being sponsored to further study in Europe he decided to return back to Mexico city in 1921 and there began his mural paintings. Diego joined a group of artists in a government sponsored mural program. He created his first famous work Creation in the National Preparatory School auditorium in Mexico City, which depicts a very religious painting reminiscent of Renaissance art. As he allied himself with the Mexican Communist Party, his works started to illustrate Mexican society and reflected the country's 1910 Revolution, bringing his ideological views to his art. He developed his own bold style while taking influence from the Aztecs. These frescoes about the previous revolution began in 1922 and was dubbed the "Ballad of the Proletarian Revolution," that he would not complete until 1928- it is currently installed in Mexico City's Secretariat of Public Education building. His art depicted the struggles of the workers in Mexico such as the miners, farmers and peasants. While promoting his marxist ideologies, Diego hosted Leon Troski and his wife in his house, while they were exiled in Mexico. He would then be commissioned around the world in places like the Soviet Union, New York City and Detroit. Though his mural in New York Man at the Crossroads would be removed due to its portrait of Vladimir Lenin and when he refused to remove the depiction Diego was forced to leave the United States due to the high anti-communism sentiment during the 1950s. He did remake this painting in Mexico.
He has painted over hundreds of frescoes around the world and he inspired an international mural movement. Rivera remained a central force in the development of a national art in Mexico throughout his life. His impact on America's conception of public art was crucial in depicting scenes of American life on public buildings. Rivera provided an inspiration for Franklin Roosevelt's WPA program. Of the hundreds of American artists who would find work through the WPA, many would depict the same political viewpoints as Rivera and his art work remains to be a large influence on American paintings, both in his artistic style and the ideas he tried to spread.