Diego Rivera single-handedly changed the shape of his nation's art. Rivera is known not only for his art but also for his strong political convictions.
Rivera as born in 1886 in the Mexican town of Guanajuato. In 1892, the family left the town partly due to the unpopularity of Rivera's liberal father.
At the age of ten, Rivera was already demonstrating great artistic gifts. In 1907, he received a scholarship to study abroad. He lived in Spain and traveled throughout Europe, where he was influenced by the work of the Fauves, Cézanne and especially by Rousseau. In 1910, he had his first successful exhibit in Mexico City. The following year, he returned to Europe and settled in Paris. His main artistic contracts at this time were with Russians.
In Paris, Rivera was affected by the work of the Cubists, but by 1917 he had broken with this artistic style. In 1919, he traveled to Italy where he studied the frescoes of the great artists. Two years later he returned to Mexico, where he used the fresco technique when painting murals. Although he adopted this classic technique, Rivera shed the European style for a new, popular look influenced by the Aztecs, Cubism and Rousseau. During this period, Rivera joined the Communist Party and his political affiliation inspired right-wing students to riot the National Preparatory School where Rivera was working. At this time, Rivera first attracted the attention of student and artist Frida Kahlo, who would later become his wife.
In 1923, Rivera was working on a series of murals for the Ministry of Education. His work was criticized at home due to its political content, but it garnered attention abroad. In 1927, Rivera was invited to Russia to attend the tenth anniversary of the Revolution. He agreed to paint a mural for the Red Army Club in Moscow, but he encountered difficulties and differences of opinion as he worked. A year later, he was ordered home by the Latin American Secretariat of the Comintern, and in 1929 he was dismissed from the Communist Party.
Back in Mexico, Rivera married Kahlo and created some of his best loved works when painting numerous frescoes in the Palace of Cortez. In 1931, Rivera and Kahlo traveled to New York where they became celebrities after Rivera's retrospective exhibit at the MOMA broke all attendance records. The greatest scandal of Rivera's career occurred on this trip when he portrayed Lenin in a mural for the Rockefeller center. Rivera was not allowed to complete the work, which was eventually destroyed. After the uproar surrounding this mural, it became difficult for Rivera to find commissions.
After his expulsion from the Communist Party, Rivera sided with the Trotskyites and Rivera and Kahlo received Trotsky and his wife in Mexico in 1937. Rivera and Kahlo's passionate yet stormy relationship ended in divorce in 1940, but the couple remarried soon after. In the late 1940s, Rivera began his campaign to be readmitted to the Communist Party. He achieved his goal in 1954, but by this time the death of Kahlo and his own failing health prevented him from enjoying his success. Rivera died in 1957, leaving behind a substantial legacy and a magnificent body of work.