August 26th, 2006
Diego Rivera
About the Artist

“An artist is above all a human being, profoundly human to the core. If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist.”

Considered the greatest Mexican painter of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera had a profound effect on the international art world. Among his many contributions, Rivera is credited with the reintroduction of fresco painting into modern art and architecture. His radical political views and tempestuous romance with the painter Frieda Kahlo were then, and remain today, a source of public intrigue. In a series of visits to America, from 1930 to 1940, Rivera brought his unique vision to public spaces and galleries, enlightening and inspiring artists and laymen alike.

Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1886. He began to study painting at an early age and in 1907 moved to Europe. Spending most of the next fourteen years in Paris, Rivera encountered the works of such great masters as Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, and Matisse. Rivera was searching for a new form of painting, one that could express the complexities of his day and still reach a wide audience. It was not until he began to study the Renaissance frescoes of Italy that he found his medium. It was with a vision of the future of the fresco and with a strong belief in public art that Rivera returned to Mexico.

Frescoes are mural paintings done on fresh plaster. Using the fresco form in universities and other public buildings, Rivera was able to introduce his work into the everyday lives of the people. Rivera concerned himself primarily with the physical process of human development and the effects of technological progress. For him, the frescoes’ size and public accessibility was the perfect canvas on which to tackle the grand themes of the history and future of humanity. A life long Marxist, Rivera saw in this medium an antidote to the elite walls of galleries and museums. Throughout the twenties his fame grew with a number of large murals depicting scenes from Mexican history. His work appealed to the people’s interest in the history of technology and progress. The desire to understand progress was visible in the growing industrial societies of the 1930s, and Rivera saw the workers’ struggle as a symbol of the fragile political ground on which that capitalism trod.

In 1930, Rivera made the first of a series of trips that would alter the course of American painting. In November of that year, Rivera began work on his first two major American commissions: for the American Stock Exchange Luncheon Club and for the California School of Fine Arts. These two pieces firmly but subtly incorporated Rivera’s radical politics, while maintaining a sense of simple historicity. One of Rivera’s greatest gifts was his ability to condense a complex historical subject (such as the history of California’s natural resources) down to its most essential parts. For Rivera, the foundation of history could be seen in the working class, whose lives were spent by war and industry in the name of progress. In these first two commissions and all of the American murals to follow, Rivera would investigate the struggles of the working class.

In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, Rivera arrived in Detroit, where, at the behest of Henry Ford, he began a paean to the American worker on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Completed in 1933, the piece depicted industrial life in the United States, concentrating on the car plant workers of Detroit. Rivera’s radical politics and independent nature had begun to draw criticism during his early years in America. Though the fresco was the focus of much controversy, Edsel Ford, Henry’s son, defended the work and it remains today Rivera’s most significant painting in America. Rivera, however, did not fare nearly so well in his association with the Rockefellers in New York City.

In 1933 the Rockefellers commissioned Rivera to paint a mural for the lobby of the RCA building in Rockefeller Center. “Man at the Crossroads” was to depict the social, political, industrial, and scientific possibilities of the twentieth century. In the painting, Rivera included a scene of a giant May Day demonstration of workers marching with red banners. It was not the subject matter of the panel that inflamed the patrons, but the clear portrait of Lenin leading the demonstration. When Rivera refused to remove the portrait, he was ordered to stop and the painting was destroyed. That same year, Rivera used the money from the Rockefellers to create a mural for the Independent Labor Institute that had Lenin as its central figure.

Rivera remained a central force in the development of a national art in Mexico throughout his life. In 1957, at the age of seventy, Rivera died in Mexico City. Perhaps one his greatest legacies, however, was his impact on America’s conception of public art. In depicting scenes of American life on public buildings, Rivera provided the first inspiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s WPA program. Of the hundreds of American artists who would find work through the WPA, many continued on to address political concerns that had first been publicly presented by Rivera. Both his original painting style and the force of his ideas remain major influences on American painting.

  • Kayla Barwic

    This site is very useful. I got almost everything i needed from this web site

    Thanks a Million!!

  • Tiaira Jackson

    You are a great artist


    I saw this fabulous program last night. At the end they had an offer to buy a copy of the CD Diego in America. I did not get the complete number to buy a copy last night. I would love to buy a copy of the CD. Thank you.

  • Robert Pitts, Jr.

    This is an excellent biography of Rivera, of the Rivera’s (Frida Kahlo), and how his artwork inspired North American artists (especially other muralists during the New Deal-era).

  • William

    THANX A BILLION!!!!!!!!!

  • Carmen Piersanti

    good work

  • Edwardo Bernardo

    Awsome Page it helped my school project THANKS!!!

  • noellie

    i need lots of facts

  • kyah

    this helped me very much on my project.

  • Myrissa

    omg!!! i had to do a spanish project on this guy!!! boring!! lol jk!! hes alrite!

  • Mike

    Thaks this page helped out alot!! lol!! He is big!! JK

  • Kiana

    Thank you soo much!! this helped me soooo much with my art project!!
    I got an A+!

  • Alysia

    this helped a ton

  • myya

    i love the pic

  • winnie

    Thanks.Just what I needed.

  • julia

    the paragragh helped me, his picture i could say thumbs down!!!LOL JK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Shameria

    Thank u so much!! I will definetly get an A. Love this Website.

  • Abby

    Eh.. would have worked perfect if i was looking information on him. I’m looking for info. about his painting. :( Spanish sucks.

  • Raco

    What a ugly picture of that bulldog!

  • alyssa

    This is a very helpful website it is worded well so anyone can understand
    Thank you so much

  • fred


  • kelly anderson

    none of this info. was hardly helpful to me for my essay on him!

  • Veeena

    I got alomst everything i needed. I am doing a report on him. English sucks . :(



  • kristen alston

    this was somewhat helpful but i did not get much from it

  • Angel in spanish class

    hes really ugly :(

  • rap

    good web

  • Kaylee

    this was a lot of help on my spanish homework thanks so much!!!!!

  • Anowar Hossain


  • Ana

    this website is great Diego many thanks on putting Mexico back in the map specially Guanajuato

  • Sunshine

    he cool. a little scary tho.

  • J>M>J

    Nice. yeah i am writing a 500 word paper on Diego Rivera so it kinda helped thanx (:

  • Aaliyah

    I like your paniting

  • Anowar Hossain

    I,m painter myself! He is my Hero…& I did a series of work about him and frida it’s call
    “Mi Dieg – Mi Frida”

  • Kristen

    this web site was a great source of information for my famous hispanic report for Spanish 1.

  • tunisha webster

    he looking funny! but dis pg helped me alot thanx lol he look like he on crack!!!!:P

  • winifred

    art is the most amazing thing in the whole planet i would marry it if i could.

  • Jorge JImenez

    This is awsome i got all the information i needed, thanks.

  • Lil Wayne

    THis site is gangsta
    Holly GRove

  • Muffin

    He is sooooo ugly.

  • Ronaldino Gaucho

    this man is a creeper…..he freaks me out with his crazy smile

  • wantafanta

    this site has alot of info on it… to bad i cant understand the worksheet my teacher gave me!!!!! spanish3A fifth hour rocks!!!!

  • hey

    omg. yo tambien. hacia un projecto sobre diego mi amigo

  • josh parks

    this site sux has almost nothing on his murals

  • your mom

    thnx this site helped alot. =)
    he is FUGLY though! lol he looks like a toad or jk
    but rele, thnx thers alot o good info on this page.

    [[KUDOS!]] tee hee xD

  • baja boy

    julia is stupid and taiaiaiara doesn’t realize mr. rivera has been dead for over 40 years you are all dumbasse$

  • Ray Charles

    Diego Rivera is greaatttt!!!!!!!!!!

  • playa dat everyone hate

    dis site iz beastin wit info

  • christina

    this page sucked

  • Taylor Hammett

    Thank you this information really helped me with my spanish project

  • stinky poos

    unlike all of your other electric fans,i am very concerned about your fixation with ben and luke soiness this sight is as crap as your electric fans comments geese! geese? why are we talking about birds? lol

  • elephant pants

    your a gypsie

  • Cassie

    wow this is a cool site and i like the arts there really nice

  • la loca

    yo myya you is blind as hell!!!

  • Aerial Colon(MaSoN oWnZ):)

    i lykd it. . . . . but doesnt have enough info lyk who he married and who inspired him!!

  • raegan

    thank ya much.

  • Bob

    please include information about the piece from the depression, the intensals used and the place where it is held today, this website was not very useful

  • Dixie Normas

    this was a complete waste of time. barely helped

  • Matama Ghandi

    verrrrrrrrrrrrry goooooooooooooood peace 2 India

  • tyler childers

    hes very stupid

  • Nicholas R.

    this site is the best. helped me with my art project.thx for all the help.

  • Debbie Rasmussen

    I have to do a research project on you. At first I was like, “this is really stupid”. But I guess it’s not so bad.

  • Kanye West

    This site is ballin

  • ciara


  • grace

    Loved his contributions to the art world. Thanks.

  • andrea anderson

    this is very helpful it helped
    me get my spanish project …
    thanks for this info

  • andrea anderson

    this is very helpful it has a lot of helped me get my spanish project done..
    thank you

  • abby marks

    you are the best dad i love so much i knew ur drawing would be famous one day! keep on going love your loving daughter abby<3 by the way i got a an A+

  • chris

    very useful website i found most of my info that i needed.

  • Sabby

    Diego Rivera Is kind of a creepster but this page is very informational.

  • brandy

    i kind of like this page but it`s BORING!!!!!!!!

  • brandy

    this site is very useful for school but it is BORING !!!!!!

  • hiluh geez

    This website was sooo helpful for my project and i do agree, he is relly ugly, but a master of art!!!

  • katie

    wow. this site help me so much on my art project! my teacher was crazy strict. lol but it helped me alot so thanks :]

  • Chris



    this website really helped me on my school report

  • Anahi

    Im doing my senior project on Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, this website helped me alott, Thnxx.

  • Dalton

    This helped a lot!

  • Alicia Keys

    Thanks a Million #1 this helped my family sooo much.



  • Shakira Washington

    Thank u for helpin my family sooo much

  • marko

    im doin my spanish project on Diego Rivera this site kinda helped meh !!

  • james

    hey this was so cool yo i found wat i wanted

  • karla

    this report help me in my enghish project

  • james bond

    good web site

  • AJ

    u rule man only if u were alive today ur gonna help my FL class

  • tc howard

    you are the best

  • rachel

    extremely informative!!! gracias!

  • blonde

    Diego es MUY feo! mira raro!!! ahhhhh!

  • cool

    what typ of art do u do

  • justin copello

    awsome, amazing work, very helpful
    thanks, justin copello

  • adriana

    thx a trillion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (HAHA i put a trillion)

  • el roko

    well I liked most of his murals and paintings I didn’t like his wife. any way I just want to tell all the people who wrote should notice that DIEGO RIVERA died already so he WAS (no is) a great artistl. Frida really was ugly…

  • Sucio Sanchez

    This site is the best! It helped me sooooo much!

  • frankenstein

    this guy sucks

  • juse one dtuk bsk

    his art inspires a fellow artist like me i somewhat continue what he did but i just dont have permission to paint on the walls i do it on

  • el roko


  • maya

    reliable and full of info this great article helped soo much!!

    3 cheers for great, informational websites!! woot! woot!

  • riley

    This website is awesome! Made me get an A+ in spanish yea me :)

  • Harvey van Buren

    Please let me know where I can buy this broadcast of the Biography of Diego Rivera on CD?. It’s was a marvelous broadcast from PBS many months ago

  • Alfonso Arellano

    Thanks for the info… Now Im more informated…..

  • Alycia

    ¡este Web site me ayudó tanto con mi proyecto sobre Diego Rivera! ¡gracias tanto por toda la información!

  • clarisa

    hey this a realy kool website!
    ur freaky though lol

  • clarisa

    pretty kool website

  • Jess

    I’m surprised that many of these comments are allowed on such a reputable site.

  • sandee

    His work always reminded me of grade school art but any man who inspired someone as talented at Frida Kahlo deserves recognition. May you both RIP and continue to inspire the talented.

  • Ben Dover

    Good info, Thx

  • Dillon

    i got just about everything but the only thing i need to know is how many paintings and murals did diego make…. if you know the answer e-mail me pls.

  • Bev Murphy

    Interesting read, Thx

  • yohana cardenas

    diego rivera was the best mexican painter in history

  • Emmanuel

    i got ma self some good info from herez

  • Shelby B.

    This is oh soo pleasant and joyful!!! It brought tears to my eyes!!!

  • Karina nina

    this site, amongst others as well are very informative. thank you PBS for posting this information.

  • pwned

    He married the lady with the unibrow.

  • Leah

    How would you site this article in mLA format?? I’d like to use it as a source, thank you!!

  • Guadalupe Robinson

    I would like to buy this dvd for Christmas.
    Today is Dec. 10, 2009 Would I be able to?

  • Tori Talley

    This guy is stupid. Diego Rivera soounds like a he should’ve been a baseball player. He is the most boring topic EVER. I had to do a Powerpoint project for Spanish Class on him. I did not enjoy presenting my project, because everybody fell asleep. And I almost fell asleep doing the project. And his wife is UGLY, He would’ve been better off if he were gay.
    Thanks for the info though !

    -♥- Tori Talley of NC

  • Bill the MAN

    This page is absolutely terrible. not helpful at all.

  • ytkyi

    i agree with bill the man

  • pokey mokey

    This page is ok but i would like to see some of his paintings please and thank you but for know i agree with Bill the Man and ytkyi

  • Catherine Greene

    What blows is the fact that the article can’t be printed out without the 133 comments! That’s 16 pages worth!!! What a DRAG!!! What a waste of paper and ink!!

  • Sam thompson

    Thanks this really helped me with my art project and i want to look at all his murals buts I cannot find them but ill keep trying.. and deigo is a really funny looking.. but hes cool also

  • Cristina

    well done.=)

  • Cristina


  • fabian 115939


  • Elijah AKA Steezy ERA

    Diego Rivera seems to be quite a fundamentally sound artist. Growing up as a latino teenager in America I appreciate the way that he stood up for what he beleived in. There is a lack of people who would do a thing like that particularly in the 1930’s. Here at Central High they support all the students to express what they feel and to stand up for whats right. some schools dont support things like that. I hope that our school produces many Diego RIvera’s of its own.

  • Daiyu Asahina

    @ Catherine Greene — rather than clicking the print button on the article, use the print button on your browser so you can change print settings to only PAGES 1 & 2. no need to print the whole thing….. i must say ‘this rocks” cant be helpful for your spanish/art project ^^

  • Betty White

    if you need more info on him go to his website =)

  • lenny ruderman

    diego rivera was also married to gypsy rose lee .

  • Tube

    Helpful site. Great information. Cool beans.

  • Roly Poly!

    awesome page, thanks a bunch :)

  • billy bob

    needs more dates for timelines otherwise great thx!

  • Em

    You have great writing skills. Plus the fact that you really know what you’re talking about makes this so much more informational. Very nice job with this. Kudos!

  • Pink Alicia Moore

    Always interested in hearing about her. Aaliyah was stunning. A person I both respect and will never forget. It’s such a shame what happened to her. The original painting I purchased of her is stunning and will be cherished forever!

  • Angel Gómez.

    Well:this great mexican painter of my country may look ogli and all that to many people,but he had what it takes to face and faith for his ideals and work to one of the richiest man of that day in the USA Mr Rockefeller when he made his master piece:”Man at the cross roads” on the top in his building…..

  • michelle

    prettty good diego is good for his art work…..and reprisenting the latinos

  • Diane Gonzales

    I loved this program on Diego Rivera. What a great master artist! How can i buy a copy of this Video, Please people, let me know… Thanks… Diane

  • Washington

    needs more dates for timelines otherwise great thx!

  • Bob Marley

    What be go’ on right now mun?

  • james

    awesome biography!!!!! it helped a ton!!! it could use more examples of his work though…

  • Maria F

    This biography was amazing….I truely feel that Diego Rivera was strongly against slavery and that is why he did so many paintings that were kind of like…this isn’t right…or….think about how we feel inside…he wanted us to feel pity or something, but what was important was the message he tried to send to the crowd and the audience…the time and effort he put into his work was incredible…I really look up to being someone remembered by doing something right…he not only did a favor to the slaves but he did it as a sign for good.
    It really helped me understand alot of things and helped me comprehend many things…Thanks alot..:)!!!!!

  • Nickolas A

    THANKS A TRILLION!!! well im saying this before it has helped me but im doing and easy 7th grade art poster.

  • julio

    i say that his art is wonderfull but
    it cant beat the people that do art out and the streets
    in los angeles..

  • madison

    This biography is awesome.

  • Donald Mrkacek

    we are interested in the perspective, and you should be afraid of us, we are constant and alive, it doesnt matter how many forguries you reproduce the original is what matters, ya cant fool americans, now lets see what youve learned and show us where the rest of them are, afraid of a drawing or painting or sculpture, and be fair about it hurry up it just makes the country look bad

  • Taka Hiro

    Rivera gets a mention in the Hip Hop track Next Version by UK Hip Hop act the Kaos Krew. Thought I’d check out who they were referring to and it’s opened up a whole new field of research for me. Thanks for the information!

  • maria

    Gostaria de saber se existe informação que, Diogo Riviera, em 1905 pintou a estátua de Francois anneesseens, em Bruxelas’?- Obrigado.

  • Alej

    Ugly.. But a true and true artist.. A genius


    Excellent artist…..

  • Khageshor

    I like your paintings

  • W.C.

    another guy who failed to see he was in love with a corrupt, empty system that would collapse from it’s own weight though not before it woud manage to kill millions of it’s own people.

  • Giridhar kumar

    this site, amongst others as well are very informative. thank you PBS for posting this information

  • Randy Umberger

    Look up the word “Marxist” in the dictionary and then tell me how much you respect
    this artist. His talent is to be respected. He is no different than any powerful person who believes that he should decide for others. That the common man does not have the capacity to think and act for himself.
    The strong, rich, powerful, celebrity always expects the common man to bow and fetch. Lenin killed those who did not submit to his power and authority. He did not “stand up for the worker” and “working man”
    he ordered the death of anyone he could catch who would not serve him. He made fearful slaves out of a whole country. Rivera is like so many others. A truly God given artistic gift and he uses it to suggest that others should renounce their God given human will and serve his ideas. It generally goes like that. “don’t trust in the Lord to open your eyes and lead you. Join together with other people to impose your will on them.”

  • Cino

    See alos this excellent article in French-Morning (NY) about the MoMA exibit dedicated to the artist:

  • Sally

    Very well-written, concise yet informative. Thank you.

  • john neck

    the greatest american artist ever

  • Rafael

    A very excellent artist. It’s a good thing I stumbled upon this site. It’s very informative. I hope there will be more biographies like this. Can’t wait for the next one.

  • Jason

    This artist is a great inspiration any aspiring mural artist

  • Crazy and Random

    I love his artwork so much. What I want to know is where does he get his talent from? He is a very talented painter and I wish that I could be as talented as him.

  • kamryn

    he is a very talented artist!!! and he looked honestly happy in that picture, you could see in his eyes and smile he loved what he did

  • CARO

    he has nice art

  • TheFriGuy

    Thanks for posting this it was a big help on my spanish project!

  • Jon

    Its kinda werid he wanted to draw lenin so bad, illuminati!!!!!!!

  • sharon stevenson

    I don’t know a whole about art, but in 1984 I when to school ( WCCC), after rising my children and my mothers as well. I needed a job but had no skills, therefore school seem like a good Idea, I had a English class, long story short we had to write a paper I pick to write about Mr. Rivera, I had never heard of him but for some reason I pick him to write about I got a B+ on my paper and I still have this to this day. I’m now 65 years of age and very proud of my paper. I also have the movie about him and his wife. they were fascinating then and now. I just saw a program on the Rockafellers very good stuff. P.S. I didn’t finish school because I needed a job, and found one I worked at that job until 2008, until cancer got me but I’m fine now and retired.

  • Eric Renken

    Just trying to find some information on Mr. Rivera for my art class. I must write a paper on an artist, and came across this site. It is interesting. My ex-best friend gave me the idea to write about Mr. Rivera since I am presently living in South Texas, which of course is very close to Mexico. And since I live in South Texas, she felt that I would benefit from knowing more about Mexican art and artists. The more I find out about Mr. Rivera, the more I feel that he really thought and painted with big ideas and images, as we can all see in his mural. Thanks for all the comments I found here.

  • Korin A.

    So what was his style of art? I know it was like murals and such, and political art, but I have to do an art project in his style of art, and I don’t know what to do!

  • David Auerbach

    I believe the correct spelling is “Frida” Kahlo. His years in Paris were also marked by various other “tempestuous” relationships (i.e., abuse and abandonment). He was a genius, but also a tremendous megalomaniac.

Inside This Episode

  • About the Artist


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