1930s HOME INTRO MURALS BIO



INTRODUCTION

Diego Rivera is still arguably Mexico's most famous artist. One art historian, who overcame his initial skepticism over the popularity of Rivera's work, stated it best when he noted that, "It is impossible to think of Mexico today without also seeing the images of Diego Rivera." However, despite his fame in Mexico, Rivera's work in the United States has been left out of most discussions regarding the cultural crisis experienced by the United States during the Depression. When he is mentioned, it is usually only as background information related to New Deal mural art, or in relation to the Rockefeller Center scandal. Rivera should be incorporated into cultural studies of the period because both the artist and his work occupied a symbolic space in the American intellectual debate over the cost of progress during the early years of the Depression.

In particular, Rivera's experience in Detroit illustrates how the intellectual left and right manipulated his image and his work to advance their causes. The Detroit murals (east and west) that best illustrate Rivera's interest in the relationship between technology and history are described in detail in the murals section of this website. The other murals (north and south) from the DIA can be viewed but are not discussed at length.

Due to his fame as Mexico's leading artist, his defense of the proletariat, interest in folkloric and ancient cultures, and fascination with technology, Rivera became a trophy desired by both sides of the debate over progress. The history of Rivera's patronage in the United States, in particular his work in Detroit, his influence on his contemporaries, and his relationship with the American public, are all part of a greater national narrative about the culture of the Depression.


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