More about Portrait of Dr. Otto Ruhle

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Diego Rivera painted this portrait in 1940, which was a pretty weird year of his life.

The year before, 1939, Diego was still married to Frida Kahlo but he wasn’t winning any awards for husband of the year. Frida had caught wind that Diego was doing the hanky-panky with her younger sister so, naturally, Frida was extremely hurt. Diego had a great idea: why not get a divorce?

They were both living the single life until 1940 when one of Diego’s friends, Dr. Eloesser, convinced Rivera that he should remarry Frida, so the two got back together.

Frida and Diego were both huge communist supporters, which was one of the things that helped keep them together after they got remarried. This was what drew Rivera to Dr. Otto Ruhle.

Dr. Otto was a German-born communist supporter. He was a part of many political movements including the German Labour Movement and the Social-Democratic Reichstag faction. What was weird was that he never totally agreed with or supported any group that he was a part of. Otto was even expelled from the Social-Democratic Reichstage faction because, despite being a member of the group, he wasn’t happy with it and thought that it was too conservative and that it needed reforming. What he did agree with were the ideas of the Frankfurt School and their critical theory: the idea that education and the future were the answers to all of society’s current problems.

It was Dr. Otto’s feelings on education and his ideas about the future that inspired Rivera to give Dr. Otto the forehead to end all foreheads. Rivera wanted to highlight Otto’s intellectual capabilities, not his bewitching good looks.

As of November 2016 the Dallas Art Museum got a new art director who was looking to shake up the museum’s displays. Poor old Dr. Five-Head’s portrait had been buried in storage for years, which the new director thought was kind of insane. Why, after all, would you have a Rivera but never put it up? So he dug it out and now, if you’re ever in Dallas, you can go see Diego Rivera’s Portrait of Dr. Otto Ruhle.