Born in Guanajuato in 1886, Rivera studied at the National School of Fine Arts before receiving a scholarship to travel to Europe, where he settled in Paris in 1907. In 1921, answering the call to intellectuals to leave their ivory towers and join the revolutionaries in establishing a new national culture, he returned to Mexico.
His first commissions were murals for the National Preparatory School and the Ministry of Education; the latter he described as an attempt to ‘reflect the social life of Mexico as I saw it, and through my vision of the truth to show the masses the outline of the future.’
In 1929, Rivera married the artist Frida Kahlo, a partnership that was loving and tempestuous in equal measure. By the 1930s, he was being commissioned for murals in the United States too — in Detroit, San Francisco and New York — and had become a bona fide star of the art world.
In 1931, Rivera was invited to exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and arrived six weeks in advance to create the murals for the show. After the opening, he added three more murals depicting life in New York City, focusing on the plight of the worker during the Great Depression. These murals became pivotal in shaping the debate about the social and political value of public art during a period of economic crisis.
Throughout his life, Rivera’s commitment to communism and his close relationship with Russia caused controversy. In 1934, a mural commissioned for the Rockefeller Center was destroyed following the artist’s refusal to paint out a picture of Lenin. In 1955 he was diagnosed with cancer; he died in November 1957 in his studio in San Angel.
Although best-known for his murals, Rivera also made a number of easel paintings, watercolours and drawings. In May 2018, his painting The Rivals realised $9,762,500 in The Collection of David and Peggy Rockefeller sale, setting a world record price at auction for not just Rivera but any Latin American artist.
Tres hombres construyendo un huacal (also known as Tres hombres trabajando )