Diego Rivera was born on December 8, 1886, in Mexico. He was a well-known political leader and a prominent Mexican painter. His giant frescoes contributed to the establishment of the mural movement in Mexican and international art. Between 1922 and 1957, he painted several murals in many different places. Some notable ones were: Mexico City, Chapingo; Cuernavaca, Mexico; San Francisco; Detroit; and New York City. He was married several times and had three surviving children. His first child and only son passed away at the young age of two. His third wife was Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican painter, with whom he had a particularly volatile relationship. Rivera died of cancer on November 24, 1957.
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez
December 8, 1886
November 24, 1957 (age 70)
Diego Rivera was born on December 8, 1886, in Guanajuato, Mexico, into an affluent family. His mother’s name was Maria del Pilar Barrientos and his father’s name was Diego Rivera Acosta. He had a twin brother who died at the age of two. His mother had a converso ancestry, which means her forefathers were Jews who were forcefully converted to Christianity. Rivera considered his mother’s Jewish ancestry as a dominant element in his life. He displayed a keen interest in drawing from an early age, so his parents decided to encourage his natural talent. He started studying art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City, at the age of 10. The governor of the state of Veracruz, funded him to continue his studies in Europe. Rivera first went to Madrid, Spain, after arriving in Europe in 1907 to study with Eduardo Chicharro.
He moved to Paris, where he came across Angelina Beloff, an artist from the pre-Revolutionary Russian Empire who worked mostly in Mexico. They got married in 1911 and had a son in 1916, also named Diego. However, his son passed away in 1918. During this time, Rivera had an affair with a fellow painter, Maria Vorobieff-Stebelska, who gave birth to his daughter. Influenced by Paul Cézanne’s paintings that utilized simple forms and large patches of vivid color, Rivera shifted toward Post-Impressionism around 1917. His paintings began to attract attention, and he was able to display them in several exhibitions.
Rivera soon divorced Beloff and married Mexican writer and actress, Guadalupe Marin, in 1922. The couple had two daughters. While still married to Marin, he began a passionate love affair with an art student, Kahlo, who later became a renowned painter. Rivera divorced Marin and married Kahlo in 1929, despite their 20-year age gap. Unfortunately, his stormy temper and multiple affairs led to their divorce in 1939, but they reconciled in 1940. After Kahlo’s demise, Rivera married his agent, Emma Hurtado, in 1955.
Rivera travels to Madrid, Spain, where he studies with fellow artist Eduardo Chicharro.
Inspired by Paul Cezanne, Rivera focuses on the Post-Impressionism style.
After joining the Mexican Communist Party, Rivera participates in the establishment of the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors.
After divorcing his third wife, he gets married to Kahlo, after a long and passionate affair.
Rivera is commissioned to create an artwork for John D. Rockefeller Jr. but is later removed, for it includes the portrait of Russian communist and Marxist, Vladimir Lenin.
Why We Love Diego Rivera
He's a part of Mexico’s cultural history
Rivera is an inseparable part of Mexico’s cultural history. Given his contribution to art, the Mexican government declared Rivera’s works monumental pieces of history.
He founded Mexicanidad
Experts credit Rivera for discovering the painting style called Mexicanidad. This style emphasizes Mexican culture and helps in highlighting the same through artwork.
Mexico in a mural
Rivera painted the mural titled, ‘Epic of the Mexican People,’ depicting the numerous struggles of the Mexican people against dictators and hegemonies of other nations from ancient times to the present time. Rivera believed that by painting murals on the wall surfaces of public buildings, he could make art more accessible to the general public.
5 Surprising Facts
He allegedly engaged in cannibalism
In his autobiography, he claimed that in the year 1904, he had engaged in cannibalism in Mexico.
His paintings hold a record
His paintings hold the record for the highest-priced artwork at an auction for works by a Latin-American artist.
He was friends with Picasso
His closeness with Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani greatly influenced his artistic style.
He cheated on his wives
He cheated on almost every woman he married, including his third wife, which led to their divorce.
He was an atheist
He did not believe in God and believed that religion was a form of collective neurosis.
Diego Rivera FAQs
Did Diego Rivera marry after Kahlo?
One year after Kahlo’s death, Rivera married Hurtado, his agent, in 1955.
What is Rivera's most famous piece?
‘Detroit Industry’ is probably the most famous of Rivera’s murals. It is made up of 27 fresco panels that were painted on the interior walls of the Detroit Institute of Art.
Why did Rivera’s father cover a room in canvas?
Rivera’s father covered the walls of his son’s room with canvas so he was able to draw on them to promote his son’s artistic talent. Rivera had finished high school by the age of 12 and enrolled in San Carlos Academy, Mexico’s national art school.
Diego Rivera’s birthday dates