Diego Rivera Is Famed for His Murals, But His Early Paintings Also Made Art History

Diego Rivera at work on a commissioned murals for Rockefeller Center in New York in May 1933.AP/SHUTTERSTOCK

Though celebrated as one of Mexico’s preeminent muralists, Diego Rivera’s path to fame was defined by long-overlooked experimentation. Born in 1886, he lived through unsettled, revolutionary times, and he is best known for his pursuit of a decisive national and artistic identity for Mexico in the wake of the country’s revolution, which ended in 1920. As a student at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City, he chafed against professors who actively discouraged representations of Mexican culture; classmates sometimes spent months reproducing classical paintings. After graduation in 1906, Rivera traveled from Mexico to Spain to Paris and back again, searching among the European schools for a signature style of his own.

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