Although Diego Rivera could paint in any style he developed his own style. He produced paintings and
murals of unique beauty that could be appreciated by many, even those who were appalled at his
life style and radical politics.
- Ancestry: His ancestors were said to have been Spanish, Amerindian, Italian, Portuguese, African,
Russian and Jewish.
- 1882: Maria del Pilar Barrientos, a young woman of 20 years of age, marries Don Diego de Rivera, a man
thirty five years of age. They worked as teachers in a primary school in Guanajuato founded by Maria's mother.
The city of Guanajuato was a silver-mining town in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. Don Diego
had attended college and was trained as an industrial chemist. He was thought to be a Free Mason whereas
she definitely was a Catholic.
- 1886: On December 8th Maria gave birth to twin boys. It was a traumatic affair. Maria suffered so much
bleeding giving birth to the first child, Diego Maria, that she appeared to have died after the birth of the
second, Carlos Maria. After she was pronounced dead by the attending doctor her elderly woman attendant
discovered that Maria was still breathing. She recovered. Diego also was at first thought
to have been born dead, but was found to be alive.
- 1888: The twins both had wet-nurses but Diego's seemed to be the superior. For whatever reason
Carlos' health suffered and in 1888 he died.
- 1889: When not yet three years old at this time Diego began drawing.
- 1891: Maria gives birth to a daughter, who is also named Maria.
- 1893: The Rivera family moves from an upper class home in Guanajuato to lesser accommodations
in Mexico City.
- 1898: Diego at eleven years of age begins attending the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City,
which is the national school of art for Mexico.
- 1903: Diego is expelled temporarily from the Academy for taking part in political demonstrations
against the president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz.
- 1905: Diego graduates from the Academy of San Carlos and is awarded a scholarship
to study art in Europe.
- 1908: Diego Rivera leaves Mexico to continue his art training. He settles in Madrid to commence that
- 1909: Rivera considers his training in Madrid completed and he moves to Paris. Shortly thereafter
he begins a tour of Northern Europe. He visits Bruges in Belgium, Holland and London. At this
time he meets Angelina Beloff who is a Russian-Jewish artist from St. Petersburgh.
in later life
- 1910: Rivera and Angelina live together in Paris. Rivera decides to return to Mexico
to take part in the centenary celebration of the Mexican war of independence of 1810.
Rivera has a one-man show of his paintings in Mexico City.
- 1910: The revolution against Diaz begins. Rivera designs a poster urging the Mexican peasants
to support the revolution.
- 1911: Rivera and Angelina return to Paris and settle in the Montparnasse district. They
visit Catalonia, Madrid and Toledo. Rivera has an exhibition of his art in Paris. The new
government in Mexico renews Rivera's fellowship.
- 1912: In the summer Rivera goes to Spain. He spends the summer there and then goes to
Paris for the fall. He spends the winter in Toledo, Spain where he studies the painting
and artistic philosophy of El Greco.
- 1913: The government of Francisco Madero is overthrow by a military coup d'ét
carried out by General Victoriano Huerta. Rivera returns to Montparnasse in Paris and
begins to paint in the Cubist manner.
- 1914: Rivera meet Pablo Picasso. They become friends.
Rivera has his first one-man show in Paris. The Mexican government stop paying his grant.
He and his wife Angelina spend the winter in Madrid as a reaction to the beginning of World War I.
- 1915: In March Rivera and his wife return to the Montparnasse district of Paris.
- 1916: Rivera and Picasso quarrel. In August Angelina gives birth to Rivera's son
who is also given the name Diego. Rivera begins an affair with a Russian artist, Marevna Vorobev-Stebelska.
He returns to Angelina six months later.
In New York Rivera's paintings are exhibited at the Modern Gallery along with works
by four of the top artistenstateds of the time; Pacasso, Cézanne, van Gogh and Braque.
- 1917: Rivera disputes with Picasso the nature of Cubism. Rivera starts to paint in the
style of Cézanne.
In October Rivera's 14 month old son, Diego, dies.
- 1918: Rivera tries to end his affair with Marevna Vorobev. She is pregnant with his child. Rivera
and Angelina move away
from Montparnasse to another less Bohemian district to Paris.
- 1919: Rivera meets fellow artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Marevna Vorobev gives birth to her daughter Marika. Rivera is her father.
The Mexican government invites Rivera to participate in a national program of mural painting.
- 1920: Rivera cannot choose between Angelina and Marevna. He paints commissioned portraits
to earn money to live on.
The Mexican government gives Rivera a grant which he uses to finance a tour of Italy to study
- 1921: Rivera returns to Paris from Italy in April. In July he leaves Angelina, Marevna and Marika
in Paris and goes back to Mexico.
Later Rivera said of Angelina Beloff, "She gave me everything a good woman can give a man.
In return she received from me all the headache and misery that a man can inflict upon a woman."
Another time Angelina said of him, "Though he loved me for a few years and then other women,
his painting was all he ever truly and deeply loved."
- 1922: At the National Preparatory School of Mexico Rivera starts his first mural. He marries
Rivera joins with other top artists of Mexico in forming the radical Union of Technical Workers,
Painters and Sculptors. He becomes a member of the Communist Party of Mexico.
- 1923: The Mexican government commissions Rivera to create a series of mural at the
Ministry of Education. He takes control of the project and destroys some works which had
been created by other artists of the project.
- 1924: The mural program is cancelled, but then reinstated under a new government.
Rivera is the only muralist who allowed to continue working.
Rivera complete his mural Feast of the Day of the Dead
Rivera's wife Guadalupe gives birth to their daughter Lupe. He is given a new muralist
project in the city of Chapingo.
- 1925: Rivera resigns from the Communist Party of Mexico.
- 1926: In Chapingo, Rivera hires Tina Modotti as a model. She is a photographer. Rivera and
Tina begin an affair.
Rivera is re-admitted to the Communist Party of Mexico.
- 1927: Rivera falls from a scaffold and is injured. His wife bears another daughter, Ruth.
In August Rivera leaves his wife Guadalupe and goes to the Soviet Union to participate
in the tenth anniversary of the capture of power by the Bolsheviks.
- 1928: Rivera is asked to leave the Soviet Union because he was believed to have become
involved in anti-Stalin politics. He returns to Mexico.
- 1929: The Mexican government declares the Communist Party an illegal organization.
A Cuban Communist, Antonio Mella, is assassinated in Mexico City. Rivera's model and
mistress, Tina Modotti, is being framed for involvement in that assassination. Rivera
uses his influence to prevent her from being held responsible for that crime.
Rivera is appointed as director of the Academy of San Carlos. He tries to dissociate himself
from the radical line of the Communist Party of Mexico. He marries a young Communist activist,
Frida Kahlo. Later in the year he is expelled from the Communist Party of Mexico.
Rivera is commissioned to create murals at the National Palace of Mexico.
He is given a commission from the U.S. ambassador, Dwight Morrow, to create frescoes in the Palace
of Cortés in Cuernavaca, in the state of Morelos, Mexico.
- 1930: Rivera is forced to resign from his directorship of the Academy of San Carlos. He finishes the murals
at the Palace
of Cortés in Cuernavaca.
He receives commissions to create murals in San Francisco, U.S.A. and leaves Mexico to go
to San Francisco.
- 1931: In San Francisco Rivera completes two major murals. One is at the Pacific Stock Exchange
and the other is at the San Francisco Art Institute. In June Rivera leaves San Francisco to return
to Mexico to complete his work at the National Palace.
In Mexico Rivera meets the Russian film maker Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein is inspired
by Rivera's works to produce a film entitled Qué Viva México.
Rivera commissions the building of a new house and studio in San Angel, a suburb of Mexico
Rivera then goes to New York for a one-man show of his works at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
It is a great success.
- 1932: Rivera receives commissions by the Institute of Art in Detroit, Michigan to create murals.
He journeys there and creates a mural based upon the Ford Motor Company's Rouge River Automobile
plant, the largest plant in the world at that time.
In July his wife Frida suffers a miscarrage.
Rivera creates the stone lithograph Open Air School.
- 1933: The murals in Detroit are completed in March and viewed by a large number of people.
Rivera receives a commission to create a mural in the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center, New York.
He journeys to New York from Detroit.
Rivera has a brief affair with the American artist Louise Nevelson.
By May the mural in the RCA Building is partially complete. The architects discover that the mural
includes a portrait of Vladimir Lenin. They stop his work and remove his scaffolding.
General Motors withdraw the commission they had given Rivera to paint a mural at the World's Fair
in Chicago. Rivera returns to Mexico.
- 1934: In Mexico Rivera's health deteriorates.
In New York the management of the Rockefeller Center has Rivera's mural destroyed. Rivera
begins the re-creation of that mural at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.
Rivera begins an affair with his sister-in-law, Cristina Kahlo.
- 1935: Frida Kahlo leaves Rivera with the intention of ending their marriage. She goes to New York.
At the end of the year she comes back to Rivera, but they agree their marriage is to be "open."
- 1936: Rivera is given a commission to create a mural for the Hotel Reforma. It is never put in place
became Rivera included disrespectful references to living politicians. He gets no more
commissions for murals.
Rivera joins the Fourth International, the international communist organization which Leon Trotsky
created. Trotsky is being hunted by the agents of Joseph Stalin. Rivera persuades the President
of Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas, to grant Trotsky asylum.
- 1937: In January Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia come to live in the home of Rivera and Kahlo
in Coyoacán, a suburb of Mexico City. Rivera and Kahlo call their house Casa Azul,
the blue house. It is turned into a fortified stronghold to protect Trotsky from Stalin's agents.
Trotsky and Frida Kahlo have a brief affair.
Rivera and Trotsky set up a Joint Commission of Inquiry into the Moscow Trials. it is chaired by
the philosopher John Dewey. This Commission clears Trotsky of the accusation brought against
him by Stalin.
- 1938: Trotsky and Rivera, along with the writer André Breton tour Mexico and
together compose A Manifesto for a Free Revolutionary Art. Frida Kahlo travels to
New York and Paris where some of her paintings are being exhibited for the first time.
- 1939: Rivera quarrels with Trotsky became of the affair Trotsky had with Rivera's wife, Frida.
Trotsky moves out of the Casa Azul. Rivera breaks off membership with Trotsky's Fourth
International and divorces Frida Kahlo.
Rivera however defends Trotsky politically and denounces the Communist Party which is
trying to kill Trotsky.
Since Rivera is not getting any more commissions to create murals he reverts to painting
portraits and scenes of Amerindians.
- 1940: A gang from the Communist Party of Mexico attacks Trotsky's home. They machine
gun Trotsky's bedroom but fail to hit him. That gang was led by the Mexican artist
David Alfaro Siqueoros.
Rivera flees to San Francisco where he gets a commission to create a mural at
San Francisco City College.
After the failure of the machine gun attack on Trotsky, Stalin's agents send a single assassin.
That agent first makes the acquaintance of a maid who takes care of Trotsky's home. The assassin
courts the maid and then, through her, asks Trotsky to look over some of his political writings.
Trotsky agrees. When the assassin comes to meet with Trotsky he bring a small pickax hidden under
his coat. While Trotsky is looking over the writings the assassin buries a point of the pickax in
Trotsky's head, killing him.
Frida Kahlo is questioned by the police in connection with Trotsky's murder. She flees to San
Franciso to join Rivera. They remarry.
- 1941: After Rivera finishes his mural at San Francisco City College he returns to Mexico.
He tries to make peace with the Stalinist Communist Party and applies to rejoin the Communist
Party of Mexico. He is turned down.
- 1942: Rivera resumes work on the murals for the National Palace of Mexico.
Rivera commissions the construction of new house of monumental proportions
inspired by an Aztec temple.
- 1945: Rivera and Kahlo suffer from ill health.
- 1946: Kahlo undergoes spinal surgery. Rivera arranges for Emma Hurtado to be his art dealer.
- 1947: Rivera gets a commission to create a mural for the Hotel del Prado. He turns
it into the story of his life entitled Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda.
- 1948: Rivera completes the Alameda mural but the general public is not allowed
to view because Rivera has included in the mural
the words "God does not exist!"
- 1949: Frida Kahlo is re-admitted to the Communist Party of Mexico,
but Rivera's third application for re-admission is rejected.
A Fifty-year retrospective is held at the Palace of Fine Arts of Mexico.
- 1950: Rivera is award the National Art Prize of Mexico.
Frida Kahlo is hospitalized most of the time. Rivera spends his time supporting
Soviet international political projects.
- 1951: Rivera completes another phase of his mural work at the National Palace.
He has plans for further work there but it is never executed.
A detail of a Rivera mural
on Mexican History at the
Palacio Nacional de Mexico
- 1952:Rivera creates a mobile fresco entitled The Nightmare of War and the Dream of Peace.
It contains images of Stalin and Mao shown in heroic pose. The Mexican government refuses
to show it publically and there are violent demonstrations objecting to the government policy.
Rivera's fourth application to rejoin the Communist Party of Mexico is rejected.
- 1953: The right leg of Frida Kahlo has to be amputated.
Rivera produces a mural entitled "War and Peace" and sends it to China.
It disappears and is never heard of again.
- 1954: Rivera and Kahlo demonstrate against the Central Intelligence Agency's (C.I.A.'s) efforts to overthrow
the leftist regime that had been elected in Guatemala.
Frida Kahlo commits suicide. Rivera made her funeral into a Communist Party demonstration.
His fifth application for his re-admission to the Communist Party of Mexico is accepted.
- 1955: Rivera marries his art dealer, Emma Hurtado.
Rivera is found to have cancer. He travels to Moscow to get treatment.
- 1956: Rivera returns to Mexico from Moscow with side visits to Budapest and East Berlin.
Still in ill health he goes to live with his old friend Dolores Olmedo.
He removes the line "God does not exist!" from the mural he created for Hotel del Prado
and which he named Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda. At the public opening
for the viewing of that mural he announces, "I am a Catholic."
There is a national tribute to Rivera on his seventieth birthday.
- 1957: On November 24th Diego Rivera dies in bed in San Angel, a suburb of Mexico City.
He wanted his ashes to be mixed with those of Frida Kahlo and put in a private temple he
had built. The Mexican government instead had him buried in the National Rotunda of