Diego Rivera, ‘Untitled (Head of the soaring figure), study for ceiling of the mural Allegory of California, Pacific Stock Exchange Luncheon Club, San Francisco’, 1931, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of William L. Gerstle through the San Francisco Art Institute

About Diego Rivera

Inspired by Renaissance frescoes and motivated by a conviction in the value of public art, Diego Rivera found his calling as a muralist. A visit to the Soviet Union informed his signature earth-toned, Social Realist style. In accordance with his Marxist views, he “made the masses the heroes of monumental art,” painting narrative scenes championing indigenous Mexican culture and workers who toiled in the name of progress. Detroit Industry (1932-3), a 27-panel tribute to the city’s labor force, reveals Rivera’s interest in the form and function of industrial technology. While his concern for the working class resonated in the United States, his inclusion of a portrait of Lenin in Man at the Crossroads (1933), a mural commissioned for Rockefeller Center in New York City, proved highly controversial.

Mexican, 1886-1957, Guanajuato, Mexico, based in Mexico City, Mexico