Man at the Crossroads
Diego Rivera Murals
Born in 1886, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera
was noted both for his artistic work as well
as for his radical left wing political ideals
of communism. He painted without restraint and
portrayed the less noted public including industrial
workers and protesting laborers.
Rivera is often viewed in the shadows of his
even more well-known artist wife, Frida Kahlo,
whose controversially raw imagery has attracted
audiences for decades. There was even a movie,
starring American actress Salma Hayek that put
both Rivera and Kahlo in the public light in
Murals for the Museum of Modern Art
In 1931, Rivera was commissioned by the Museum
of Modern Art in New York City to paint the
walls with Diego Rivera murals. The Diego Rivera
murals were constructed as freestanding frescoes
in his contemporary style; funding was provided
by the Rockefeller Center. As he began painting
the murals, he discovered he would need to make
them portable, and thus created the movable
mural using frescoed plaster on steel supports.
In doing so, he unintentionally permitted the
murals to be preserved throughout history.
Diego Rivera Murals
Rivera painted five murals for the exhibit using
his radical-minded influence as it related to
the bustling American cityscape. See images
of Diego Rivera murals on our website.
- For one mural, “Frozen Assets,”
Rivera combines the New York City skyline
with a group of homeless people who were placed
inside a bank vault.
- “The Uprising” represents the
struggles of laborers who are portrayed as
being oppressed by soldiers in uniforms.
- A third mural included a jaguar mask worn
by a victorious Aztec warrior.
- The fourth was a portrait of Emiliano Zapata
who was an agrarian leader in Mexico at the
- However, it was the fifth mural, “Man
at the Crossroads,” that ended the
six- week painting marathon as Rivera rushed
to complete the murals for the exhibit. As
either a way to show his revolt against the
capitalist society of America or simply to
show his loyalties to communism, Rivera painted
a portrait of the controversial communist
leader, Lenin., in the mural. Nelson Rockefeller
who commissioned the work was outraged, and
had the artist’s contract revoked, ending
the work on the exhibit.
Diego Rivera was the second artist ever—the
first was Henri Matisse—to be commissioned
to such an artist endeavor in New York City.
As a result of the commission as well as his
inflammatory political agenda, Rivera’s
works wereas highly publicized. The press was
on scene during the six weeks as Rivera constructed
the his murals, and a huge amount of attention
arose at the portrait of Lenin that led to the
artist’s exhibit’s downfall.
Diego Rivera Murals Reunited
Now, eight decades after the work on the Diego
Rivera murals had their controversial end, was
stopped, the five murals have returned to the
MOMA for the “Diego Rivera: Murals for
the Museum of Modern Art” in New York
City. The show will run from November 21, 2011
to May 14, 2012. In addition to Rivera’s
five murals, sketches made during the feverish
work on the murals, as well as photographs taken
by zealous press will be on display.