"Gift to the City of Detroit of Mr. Edsel B. Ford"

Rivera arrived in Detroit at the peak of the Depression: 311,000 workers had been laid off in the automobile industry alone. Facing losses, Ford reduced wages from $33 to $22 per week. In light of Ford's financial losses ($15 million dollars the year before Rivera arrived), and massive layoffs, the investments in the murals were substantial. There was a great deal of pressure on Rivera to produce something that would satisfy Valentiner's desire for art accessible to the public, and Ford's interest in industry. However Rivera had a much larger vision in mind for the DIA. Rivera began working on ideas for the mural immediately after he arrived in Detroit. For one month, he studied and sketched the industrial plants. Then he presented his preliminary drawings, for the north and south walls, to Ford and Valentiner.

Ford and Valentiner were so impressed by the sketches that Ford promised Rivera $20,889 to paint all twenty-seven panels of the garden court. Valentiner's description of Rivera's work captures the overall response to Rivera's ability to portray industry, "Edsel Ford was carried away by the accurate rendering of machinery in motion and by the clearness of the composition, which was not confused by the great number of workmen represented, each occupied with his assigned job. The function of the machinery was so well understood that when engineers looked at the finished murals they found each part accurately designedů" (Downs) Rivera developed a positive relationship with Edsel Ford and on one occasion, Rivera even mentioned to Valentiner that, Edsel Ford "had none of the characteristics of an exploiting capitalistů He had the simplicity and directness of a workman in his own factories and was like one of the best of them." (Downs)

Ford was often seen watching Rivera work and met with him frequently to discuss the progress of the murals. It was Ford who initially encouraged Rivera to continue studying the Rouge plant, which Rivera did for two more months before beginning to create what he would call, "the best of my talent" (Rivera, Potrait of America).

Entering Rivera Court

The space where Rivera painted his murals was designed by the architect to provide a restful, natural environment in which to rest after a busy day exploring the museum. It is a wide-open court filled with light, vegetation, a water fountain, and minimal furniture. To get to the court, you must first cross a marble lobby, ascend a narrow staircase, walk through a succession of long rectangular spaces until you reach another staircase that must be climbed in order to access Rivera Court. Rivera used the symbolism of the court's east, west, north, and south orientation to emphasize the phases of life that provide the symbolic framing of his mural.

The decision to use this orientation was also part of Rivera's larger project to incorporate the beliefs of the indigenous peoples of the Americas into the organization of his mural. The panels that are described on the following pages illustrate his firm belief that technology is natural and in fact, an essential part of America's future.

Left: Part of Rivera's mural at the DIA
(based on a press at the Rouge plant).
Right: A statue found commonly in Mexico, of Coatlicue, an indigenous diety.

The following pages ("East" and "West") include images and descriptions of the walls on the eastern and western sides of Rivera Court. The images from the walls on the northern and southern side of the Court can be viewed but are not described at length.