On December 8, 1886, Diego Rivera was born
in Guanajuato Mexico. At the age of two, before
Diego was even able to read, his father set
up a studio for him. The family lived in Guanajuato
until 1892, when they moved to Mexico City.
At the young age of 10, Diego decided he wanted
to become an artist. So he began taking evening
classes at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico
City. He enrolled in military college at the
request of his father. But Diego did not like
the strict regimen and after two weeks, in 1898,
he attended San Carlos as a full-time student.
At the school’s annual show, he exhibited
for the first time with 26 works and became
and established painter. But Rivera was unhappy
with the new art director at the academy. And
so he decided to leave the school where he had
been a student for the last six years.
At the time, Diego’s father was an inspector
at the National Department of Public Health,
which enabled him to travel to many parts of
Mexico. On one particular trip, he showed some
of his son’s paintings to Teodoro Dehesa,
the governor of Vera Cruz. He was very impressed
and when he met with Diego, he offered him a
scholarship to study in Europe.
Rivera left Mexico and arrived in Barcelona,
Spain, to study with the Spanish painter Chicharro,
whom he studied with for two years. He sent
many of his paintings home to justify his scholarship.
Diego said he learned about his country’s
art from Jose Posada, a teacher he found himself.
Posada owned a small shop near the San Carlos
Academy where Diego would often stop and admire
his works. But Rivera still felt there was something
missing in his art that technical growth could
He left for Paris where he saw the works of
painters who called themselves Cubists. He saw
paintings by Picasso, Braque, Derain, and Cezanne.
Rivera became a part of the Parisian art world
for a decade. During the years of 1913 to 1918,
he devoted himself almost entirely to the cubist
school of art.
But his paintings only seemed to be enjoyed
by the well-educated who could afford to buy
them for their homes. Rivera believed that art
should be enjoyed by everyone, especially the
poor, working class people.
In 1909, through his friend and fellow painter
Maria Gutierrez, he met a young Russian painter
by the name of Angelina Belhoff. She later became
his common law wife for the next twelve years.
They traveled Europe together and spent a lot
of time in Paris where Diego participated in
several exhibitions. During this time, they
had many friends who were Russian.
In 1918, Rivera met Elie Faure, which began
a lifelong friendship between the two men. Faure
reawakened Rivera’s enthusiasm for murals
and encouraged him to go to Italy and study
the works of the masters. While in Italy, he
was exposed to frescoes from hundreds of years
earlier. They were often painted on the walls
of churches so that everyone in the towns could
enjoy and appreciate them. After fourteen years
away from Mexico, he left Paris and Angelina
Belhoff and returned home and participated in
what is known as the Mexican Renaissance.
Jose Vasconcelos, the new minister of public
education, initiated a national program which
included adding mural art to public buildings.
He offered Rivera an indoor wall at the National
Preparatory School, part of the University of
Mexico. Here, Rivera painted one of his most
popular works, Creation.
- 1922 to 1957
Life with Frida
Diego Rivera Paintings