Rivera: Diego Rivera was a world-famous Mexican painter, an active communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo. Rivera's large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Renaissance. Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals in Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, New York City.  December 8, 1886, Diego Rivera was born to a well-off family. From the age of ten, he studied art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City, and later was sponsored to continue study in Europe by Teodoro A. Dehesa Méndez, the governor of the State of Veracruz.

In Europe 1907, Rivera initially went to study with Eduardo Chicharro in Madrid, Spain, and from there went to Paris, France, to live and work with the artists in Montparnasse, where his friend Amedeo Modigliani painted his portrait in 1914.  In those years, Paris was witnessing the beginning of cubism in paintings by such eminent painters as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Inspired by Paul Cézanne's paintings, Rivera shifted toward Post-Impressionism. His paintings began to attract attention, and he was able to display them at several exhibitions.

In January 1922, he painted his first significant mural Creation in the Bolívar Auditorium of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City guarding himself with a pistol against right-wing students. In the autumn of 1922, Rivera participated in the founding of the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors, and later that year he joined the Mexican Communist Party.  His murals, subsequently painted in fresco only, dealt with Mexican society and reflected the country's 1910 Revolution.

Between 1932 and 1933, he completed a famous series of twenty-seven fresco panels entitled Detroit Industry on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. During the McCarthyism of the 1950's, a large sign was placed in the courtyard defending the artistic merit of the murals while attacking his politics as "detestable."

Rivera married Frida Kahlo in August 1929.  In November 1931, Rivera had a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His wife accompanied him to New York for the opening of the MoMA show, where many experts in the art world would be quick to name her husband as the better painter.  Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper led to divorce in 1939, but they remarried December 8, 1940 in San Francisco.  He died on November 24, 1957.


Kahlo: was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, on July 6, 1907 in the house of her parents. Kahlo contracted polio at age six, which left her right leg thinner than the left, which Kahlo disguised by wearing long skirts. It has been conjectured that she also suffered from spina bifida.  As a girl, she participated in boxing and other sports.  On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was in a bus crash and suffered serious injuries. Although she recovered and eventually regained her ability to walk, she was plagued by relapses of extreme pain for the remainder of her life.

After the accident, Frida Kahlo turned away from the study of medicine to begin a full-time painting career. She once said, "I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best". Drawing on personal experiences, including her marriage, her miscarriages, and her numerous operations, Kahlo's works often are characterized by their stark portrayals of pain. Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. She insisted, "I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality".

At the invitation of André Breton, she went to France in 1939 and was featured at an exhibition of her paintings in Paris. The Louvre bought one of her paintings, The Frame. This was the first work by a 20th century Mexican artist ever purchased by the internationally renowned museum.

As a young artist, Kahlo approached the famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, asking him for advice about pursuing art as a career. He immediately recognized her talent and her unique expression as truly special and uniquely Mexican. He encouraged her development as an artist and soon began an intimate relationship with Frida. They were married in 1929.

Active communist sympathizers, Kahlo and Rivera befriended Leon Trotsky as he sought political sanctuary from Joseph Stalin's regime in the Soviet Union. Initially, Trotsky lived with Rivera and then at Kahlo's home, where they reportedly had an affair.

For most of the twentieth century, Kahlo's work was not recognized as it is now: often she was popularly remembered only as Diego Rivera's wife. It was not until the early 1980s when the artistic movement in Mexico known as the Neomexicanismo began, that she became very prominent. This movement recognized the values of contemporary Mexican culture.




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