Exiting Rivera Court

Rivera's Detroit mural was arguably one of the few murals during this period that addressed the debate over the cost of technological progress. The realism of his paintings are a testimony to the importance that he gave to depicting life at the Ford plant.

In Wall-to-Wall America: a Cultural History of Post-Office Murals in the Great Depression, Karal Ann Marling argues that most muralists during this period were required to create art that would please the public. Therefore few artists painted recent events or issues related to everyday life because the public was more interested in nostalgic glances into the country's idealized past. While Rivera does portray every day life, it is surprising that his mural really does not portray the utter poverty and despair of the people of Detroit during the Depression. The only evidence of the Depression in the mural is a worker wearing a hat with the phrase, "We Want" shown. Since this was a popular hat, contemporary viewers would have known that the other side of the hat had the word "Beer". This refers to the discontent over Prohibition, which was taken up as a workers issue. Ironically, successful businessmen like Ford also supported an end to Prohibition.

Other than religious groups' criticisms of the Vaccination and the Healthy Human Embryo panel on the north wall, Rivera's Detroit mural was well received while he was there. Edsel B. Ford stated, "I admire Rivera's spirit. I really believe he was trying to express his idea of the spirit of Detroit." (Downs)

In Diego Rivera: As Epic Modernist, David Craven argues that, "Rivera's 'ultra-leftist' use of Marx's ideas allowed his paintings to be acceptable to conservatives and to be unacceptable to the Communist party for the exact same reasons. As such, the orthodox right and the orthodox left ended up with a similar reading of Rivera's work." In the end, both workers and capitalists embraced the Detroit murals. The murals had a significant impact on workers who had never seen themselves represented on the walls of an elite cultural institution. Years later when unions were organized at the Ford plants, union leaders "used to bring delegations down to see the murals. Those who lacked words brought people down here to sign them on. They [Rivera's murals] were inspirational." (Craven)