May 20, 1933


What do you paint when you paint on a wall?
Said John D's grandson, Nelson.
Do you paint just anything at all?
Will there be any doves, or a tree in fall?
Or a hunting scene, like an English ball?

"I paint what I see," said Rivera.

What are the colors you use when you paint?
Said John D's grandson, Nelson.
Do you use any red in the heart of a saint?
If you do, is it terribly red, or faint?
Do you use any blue? Is it Prussian?

"I paint what I paint," said Rivera.

Whose is that head that I see in my wall?
Said John D's grandson Nelson.
Is it anyone's head whom we know, at all?
If you do, is it terribly red or faint?
A Rensselaer, or a Saltonstall?
Is it Franklin D? Is it Mordaunt Hall?
Or is it the head of a Russian?

"I paint what I think," said Rivera.

I paint what I paint, I paint what I see,
I paint what I think, said Rivera
And the thing that is dearest in life to me
In a bourgeois hall is Integry;
I'll take out a couple of people drinkin'
And put in a picture of Abraham Lincoln;
I could even give you McCormick's reaper
And still not make my art much cheaper
But the head of Lenin has got to stay!

It's no good taste in a man like me,
Said John D's grandson, Nelson.
To question an artist's integrity
Or mention a practical thing like a fee,
But I know what I like to a large degree,
Tho art I hate to hamper.
For twenty-one thousand conservative bucks
You painted a radical. I say, shucks,
I could never rent the offices-
The capitalistic offices.
For this, as you know, is a public hall.
And people want doves, or a tree in fall,
And tho your art I dislike to hamper,
I owe a little to God and Gramper.

And after all,
It's my wall…
We'll see if it is, said Rivera.

E.B. White