Monday, January 5, 2015

Diego Rivera's Cubist Period

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez (1886-1957) usually known as Diego Rivera, remains Mexico's best-known artist nearly 60 years after his death. Much of Rivera's art from around 1920 onwards featured political subjects. Since I happen to believe that politicized art distracts viewers from aesthetic content (paintings become elaborate political cartoons), I have never been a Rivera fan.

His earliest works tended to be non-political because he seems to have been sharpening and evolving his artistic skills until he reached his early 30s. He spent about a dozen years in Europe -- Paris, mostly -- starting in 1907, and knew many of the modernist artists who created the onslaught of stylistic "isms" in the early 1900s. This included Cubism, a practice he adopted for about three years, and the subject of this post.

Wikipedia's Rivera biography is here. A discussion of his Cubist phase can be found here. Rivera's Cubist paintings was the subject of a museum exhibit in Dallas a few years ago.

Here are some of Rivera's works from that period.


The Flower Carrier - 1935
An example of Rivera's mature style. There are political implications here, but they are less overt than usual.

Girl with Artichokes - 1913

The Adoration of the Virgin - 1913
This image and the one above it have hints of Cubism, but are largely representational with other modernist elements thrown in. I like them better than his more purely Cubist works.

Oscar Miestchaninoff - 1913
Cubist faceting is more prominent here, but use of "multiple perspectives" is still absent.

Portrait of Zinoviev - 1913
Now we find face-on and profile views, here for a portrait of a Russian artist.  A muted Braque-Picasso color scheme also intrudes.

Two Women - Angelina Beloff and Maria Dolores Bastian - 1914
Many facets, but not much in the way of varying viewpoints.  Apparently Rivera could do Cubism superficially, but had a hard time going all the way.  Perhaps he realized that Cubism's central premise was silly in reality.

Young Man with Stylograph - 1914
Another derivative experiment by Rivera.  No worse than many Cubism-inspired painting of that time.

Ramon Gomez de la Serna - 1915
The subject is shattered Cubist-style, but the woman in the upper-left corner is garden-variety modernist.

Zapatista Landscape - 1915
The rifle is not cubified: Rivera's homage to revolutionary times back home in Mexico.

Maternity - Angelina Beloff and their son who died in 1918 - 1916
Plenty of facets and even some Fauvist coloring.  Rivera abandoned Cubism not long after this painting was made.

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