Diego Maria de la Concepcion Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodriguez was a Mexican artist. He is well known for expressing the lives of working-class people and the rich culture of Mexico.

Life of an Artist: Diego Rivera
Life of an Artist: Diego Rivera

Overview | Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera is considered one of the iconic Mexican artists of the 20th century. He was also the driving force of Mexican muralism. His works brought international attention to Mexican artists. Mexico had seen a violent revolution in 1920, which was one of the many social issues covered by Diego in his paintings representing his ideals and philosophies. Rivera was complimented, as he re-invented fresco paintings and murals in art and architecture. He established the Mexican mural renaissance alongside Jose Clemente Orcazo and David Alfaro Siqueros. He was also known as ‘El Elefante’ (The elephant) as he stood alongside his world-renowned artist wife, Frida Kahlo ‘La Paloma (The pigeon).

Life of an Artist: Diego Rivera
Life of an Artist


Diego Rivera was born on 8th December 1886 to a middle-class couple who were doctors and teachers by profession. He was interested in art at an early age. He started as a child, scribbling on the walls of his house. Young Diego however, was encouraged by his parents to flourish his mindset as an artist. He began his formal study in painting in 1907 in Madrid, Spain. He spent the next 14 years in Paris, France where he was exposed to the works of notable artists of that time, including Cezanne, Gauguin, Renoir, and Matisse. Paris, at that time, had artworks mostly based on Cubism which inspired Rivera. He was sure about his journey as a painter, but he was into finding a style and creating his signature in the world of art.

Life of an Artist: Diego Rivera

He left Paris once World War 1 broke out, and traveled to Madrid, where he practiced cubism art style, inspired by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Rivera had his initial paintings following cubism and helped introduce the art style in Madrid. Later by 1917-18, he shifted his art style to post-impressionism after he viewed the works of Paul Cezanne. Both art styles were radically different and were studied profusely by young artists at that time. He was deeply fond of the abstract art style, focused on the broken and shattered art style which displayed various insights on the viewer.

Life of an Artist: Diego Rivera

He returned to Mexico when he was fully established, as an artist. He started depicting the life of common citizens in his paintings. He was a strong Mexican Marxist and a communist. Following the Mexican revolution, he became a part of the Mexican Communist Party in 1922 and the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors. 

He started painting murals in public buildings for the commission since he thought it would be accessible to the common people. Major themes of his work included Mexican culture and history from Mayan Civilisation, to Post Mexican Revolution and the aftermath of the Mexican Civil War of the 1910s. 

Museo Mural-Dream of a Sunday afternoon in the alameda_©httpswww.tripadvisor.com
Museo Mural-Dream of a Sunday afternoon in the alameda_©httpswww.tripadvisor.com

Style of Work

Rivera’s art style developed from influences of pre-Columbian Mexican identity and Europe. His best works of art, were commissioned by the Mexican government.

Staircases and hallways of the National Palace, Ministry of Education in Mexico City, National School of Agriculture in Chapingo, Cuernavaca and San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City in the United States are the locations of his paintings. He rose to tremendous fame while he was in the U.S (till 1933) where he was both praised and criticized for his works. His career is a culmination of his artworks across Mexico and the U.S.

History of Mexico murals_©Cityhttpssmarthistory.org
History of Mexico murals_©Cityhttpssmarthistory.org


He was a politically active artist and had strong social opinions that often led to disagreements and criticisms. He had his intuitions about the world. Rivera was well aware of the importance and impact of art and his social position and role as an artist to society. He was skilled in presenting his overview of the world, and the international social norms, passing on his ideals and philosophy to the viewer, for which he is still famous.


Recognition After Death | Diego Rivera

Rivera was an artist who used his talent in art to give an act of service to the commoners. He gained huge social support, as he ensured that his works were accessible and viewed by the public. Another important aspect of his art is that it is not as complex as most professional paintings and can be read and interpreted by the viewers. His initiatives to introduce simple art were taken into consideration by President Franklin D Roosevelt’s Art Programs, depicting American public life similar to that of what Rivera had displayed in Mexico. At present, his works are. His initial art style and the core of ideas and philosophies are still cherished and are the base for American painting styles. The legacy of Diego Rivera, both artistically and politically, still inspires a lot of creative minds around the globe.

murals at national palace in San Francisco_©httpssmarthistory.org
murals at national palace in San Francisco_©httpssmarthistory.org

During his last years, he worked around the clock in governmental offices on murals and portable panels. Although he was a successful artist, his personal life had been shaky. He had two failed marriages, followed by his third wife, co-artist, Frida Kahlo. Their marriage had been unstable since the beginning, but he was devastated by her death in 1954. A few years later, he had continuously fallen sick, which is when he had his 4th marriage. He ultimately succumbed to cancer in the 1970s. 

References and citations:

The Art Newspaper – International art news and events. (2022). Diego Rivera mural in San Francisco to be conserved, not deaccessioned. [online] Available at: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2022/04/29/diego-rivera-mural-san-francisco-conservation-sfai [Accessed 5 Nov. 2022].

Christies.com. (2020). DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957). [online] Available at: https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-6360647 [Accessed 5 Nov. 2022].

SFMOMA. (n.d.). Exhibition: Diego Rivera’s America. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/exhibition/diego-riveras-america/.

Diego-rivera-foundation.org. (2017). Diego Rivera. [online] Available at: https://www.diego-rivera-foundation.org/biography.html.

The Museum of Modern Art. (2016). Diego Rivera. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/artists/4942.

American Masters. (2006). Diego Rivera | About the Artist | American Masters | PBS. [online] Available at: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/diego-rivera-about-the-artist/64/.

Tate (n.d.). Diego Rivera 1886–1957. [online] Tate. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/diego-rivera-1849.

Study.com. (2022). [online] Available at: https://study.com/learn/lesson/diego-rivera-paintings-biography.html.

Ph. D., S., M. A., S. and B. A., S. (n.d.). Diego Rivera: Renowned Artist Who Courted Controversy. [online] ThoughtCo. Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/biography-of-diego-rivera-2136132.

The Art Story. (n.d.). Diego Rivera Paintings, Bio, Ideas. [online] Available at: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/rivera-diego/#:~:text=A%20lifelong%20Marxist%20who%20belonged [Accessed 5 Nov. 2022].

Diegorivera.org. (2010). Diego Rivera Biography. [online] Available at: https://www.diegorivera.org/biography.jsp.

TheCollector. (2019). El Elefante, Diego Rivera – A Mexican Icon. [online] Available at: https://www.thecollector.com/el-elefante-diego-rivera-a-mexican-icon/.


Based in the Dubai, Akshaya Ashok Kumar is a young Architect keen on exploring the integrity of architecture as a profession . She believes that architecture is more than just building spaces and structures. Being an introvert by nature, she voices out her thoughts through words.