Thursday, June 25, 2009

Diego Rivera's Cubist Period

Well, since we were looking at Picasso a couple of blogs ago I thought it might be interesting to see some cubist works by an artist not particularly know for said type of paintings - Diego Rivera. Rivera, born in Mexico in 1886, worked in Europe from 1907 to 1921 (the cubist portraits came from the years between 1913-1917), and the pieces below show some of Rivera’s artistic production during the formative years he spent in literary and art circles in Paris during World War I, providing a new perspective on this lesser known and crucial period of the Mexican artist’s career. Rivera came somewhat late to cubism and who, as he was exploring cubism and almost goes to abstraction, said that from the beginning, he accepted Pablo Picasso's mastery. "I readily proclaimed myself Picasso's disciple," he wrote. "I have always been proud that Picasso was not only my teacher, but my very dear and close friend." The pieces shown below explore the artist's experimentation with the style of art that uses geometric forms while he was in Europe, before he became much more famous for his signature murals and his marriage to Frida Kahlo. Abandoning cubism in 1917 after physically assaulting an art critic who disparaged the style, Rivera returned to Mexico in 1921 and began his work on the aforementioned murals for which he is best known.

According to his official biography, Diego Rivera "was at the forefront of the Mexico's revival of mural painting. Initially, upon his return from Europe, he concentrated largely on creating frescos portraying the history and social problems of Mexico. Commonly referred to as a painter of the people and for the people, Diego Rivera held fast to his firm belief that art could be used to bring attention to matters that need to be addressed. He is known as a Mexican social realist muralist whose famous monumental frescoes gave life to revolutionary themes, a subject close to his heart. Diego Rivera paintings focus specifically on social issues and the hardships of everyday life. His art also champions the causes of the oppressed. He was an artist who used his work politically to speak for the underprivileged masses in his home land of Mexico. Moreover, Diego Rivera was a talented printmaker, sculptor and book illustrator."

In 1957, Rivera died of heart failure in his San Angel studio in Mexico.

While I'm going to share some information on the first portrait shown below, my favorite is the second piece shown - Retrato Jacques Lipschitz.

Rivera's Portrait of Ilya Ehrenburg shows his attentiveness to Cubism, especially in its second, synthetic phase in which the use of flatly colored and clearly defined shapes and varied textures combine to emphasize the two-dimensional perception of the image. At the same time, the artist seems to defy his painting’s two dimensionality by giving each of its colors and shapes its own, frequently three-dimensional, texture. This is particularly evident in his depiction of Ehrenburg’s pipe and pen, the prominently displayed symbol of the writer’s profession, whose modeled gesso protrudes from the surface of the painting. In this way, the work demonstrates that through oblique and simultaneous fragmentation of the picture plane and the transformation of perspective, Rivera opted for a hybridization of processes (Orphism, pointillism, futurism, abstraction) and, occasionally, of techniques steeped in a creative use of materials—including sand, sawdust, and paper—in oil paintings. The rusty red pigments of this canvas are pocked with sticky sand and Ehrenburg’s hair is formed by greasy ridges of black paint.

Portrait of Ilya Ehrenburg, 1915

Retrato Jacques Lipschitz, Paris 1916
This is my favorite piece amongst the pieces shown.

Martín Luis Guzmán, 1915

Sailor at Lunch (Navy Rifleman,1914

Seated Woman [Mujer Sentada], 1917

Girl with Artichokes [Muchacha con alcachofas], 1913

Dos mujeres, 1914

Portrait of Madame Marguerite Lhote, 1917