Artist
Diego Rivera
Mexican painter and muralist

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Diego Rivera
Mexican painter and muralist

Birth Date

December 08, 1886

Death Date

November 24, 1957

Contributor

Diego Rivera: Love to hate him, hate to love him.

What can I tell you that you don’t already know about one of art history’s most notorious playboys?  Diego Rivera is one of Mexico’s iconic muralists. His work celebrates Mexican heritage and nationalism, represents the plight of indigenous people and workers, and once trumpeted hopes for a brave new Mexico.

He studied art in Europe as a young man, buddied up with Pablo Picasso, and for a while affiliated himself with the Cubists. Things turned ugly when he started a fist fight with art critic Pierre Reverdy over the nature of Cubist portraiture at a dinner party. Most of their Cubist art pals sided with Reverdy, and Rivera’s art dealer went so far as to take most of his paintings off the market. Rivera distanced himself from the Cubists (he claimed Picasso was stealing his ideas anyway), and eventually resumed life in Mexico.

He had a bad, bad romance with Frida Kahlo. Their relationship was off and on over the years for many reasons (one being that he was a womanizer to end all womanizers, and even slept with her sister, Cristina). But, their love persisted. They remarried the same year they divorced, in 1940, and kept two separate, neighboring households until Frida’s dying day.

Rivera wasn’t a looker. He had 21 years, 200 pounds, and 12 inches on Frida, and she lovingly described him as “a boy frog standing on his hind legs.” Wondrously, the ladies still loved him, and he carried on affairs with famous women such as Paulette Goddard and Louise Nevelson.

Rivera fathered children with earlier partners, but he and Kahlo never had kids. Although she underwent three abortions during their romance (at least one of which is rumored to have possibly been a lover’s child). Guadalupe Rivera y Marín was one of his daughters with first wife Lupe Marín (whom he left for Kahlo). Guadalupe lived with Rivera and Kahlo in Mexico City for some of her adolescence. She suffered ridicule growing up because of her father’s radical politics, but went on to pursue a career as a Mexican congresswoman. Yeah!

A staunch Marxist, Rivera loved to piss off his patrons by including politically charged details in his frescoes. The most famous example of such outrage is his inclusion of communist iconography in a mural commissioned in 1933 by the Rockefellers for their RCA building. Not surprisingly, work on the mural was canceled abruptly and it was later destroyed.  Just as well, since Rivera had been irked from the start about being a back-up choice after Picasso and Matisse had both refused the commission.

Eventually, the universe served up some justice for all his infidelities. Rivera was diagnosed with, and eventually died from, cancer of the penis...guess the “little guy” was tuckered out.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Diego Rivera

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, known as Diego Rivera (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈdjeɣo riˈβeɾa]; December 8, 1886 – November 24, 1957) was a prominent Mexican painter. His large frescoes helped establish the Mexican mural movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals among others in Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. In 1931, a retrospective exhibition of his works was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Rivera had a volatile marriage with fellow Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Diego Rivera.