In 1897 Rivera began studying painting at the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City. His instructors included Andrés Ríos Félix Para (1845 – 1919), Santiago Rebull (1829 – 1902), and José María Velasco (1840 – 1912). Para showed Rivera Mexican art that was different from the European art that he was used to. Rebull taught him that a good drawing was the basis of a good painting. Velasco taught Rivera how to produce three-dimensional effects. He was also influenced by the work of José Guadalupe Posada (1852 – 1913), who produced scenes of everyday Mexican life engraved on metal.
In 1902 Rivera was expelled from the academy for leading a student protest when Porfirio Díaz was reelected president of Mexico. Under Díaz's leadership, those who disagreed with government policies faced harassment, imprisonment, and even death. After Rivera was expelled, he travelled throughout Mexico painting and drawing.
Teodora Dehesa, the governor of Veracruz, Mexico, who was known for funding artists, heard about Rivera's talent and agreed to pay for his studies in Europe. In 1907 Rivera went to Madrid in Spain and worked in the studio of Eduardo Chicharro. Then in 1909 he moved to Paris. There he was influenced by the work of the impressionist painters, Renoir in particular. Later he was inspired by the post-impressionists like Gauguin, Cezanne, and Matisse.
As Rivera continued his travels in Europe, he experimented more with his techniques and styles of painting. The series of works he produced between 1913 and 1917 are cubistic. In Italy he studied the techniques of fresco (in which paint is applied to wet plaster) and mural painting before returning to Mexico in 1921.
He began painting large murals on walls in public buildings. Rivera's first mural, the Creation (1922), in the Bolívar Amphitheater at the University of Mexico, was the first important mural of the twentieth century. In his later works he used historical, social, and political themes to show the history and the life of the Mexican people.
Two years later he had an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. One of his most important works is the fresco in the Detroit Institute of Arts (1933), which depicts industrial life in the United States.
|1933 Detroit Institute of Arts|
|1933 Detroit Institute of Arts (detail)|
|1933 Man at the Crossroads Looking with High Vision to the choosing of a New and Better Future|
His two murals in the National Institute of Cardiology in Mexico City (1944) show the development of cardiology and include portraits of the outstanding physicians in that field.
|1944 Institute of Cardiology|
|1947 Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park mural (detail)|
Frida Kahlo died in 1954. Diego Rivera died in Mexico City in 1957. Over his lifetime Rivera produced many fine oil paintings as well as frescoes:
|1896-7 Landscape oil|
|1904 Threshing Floor oil on canvas|
|1909 The Building on the Bridge oil on canvas|
|1912 Landscape oil|
|1920 Operation oil on canvas|
|1920 The Child Writing the Word oil on canvas|
|1923 Burn the Judas oil|
|1923 Dancing oil|
|1924 Sharpener oil|
|1926 Make the Tortilla oil on canvas|
|1926-7 The Power from Underground oil|
|1928 Night of the Rich fresco in the Courtyard of the Fiestas, Ministry of Education, Mexico City|
|1928 The Arsenal - Frida Kahlo Distributes Arms|
|1928 The Dancing from Tehuantepec|