Pan American Unity – Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

Diego Rivera’s work brought into the 21st. century

Imagine walking into the building of the City College of San Francisco to see for the first time its enormous centerpiece-five-panel fresco, 22 feet high by 74 feet wide, titled “Pan American Unity” painted by Mexican muralist painter Diego Rivera.

Pan American Unity was “the keystone of Art in Action” project for the Golden Gate International Exposition which was held from June 1 to September 29, 1940. “The exhibit was designed so that the public could watch artists in the process of creating their paintings, sculptures, and frescoes.”  Rivera’s fresco was completed on December 2nd,  1940; and it is estimated that 25-30,000 people visited the exhibition to see this iconic masterpiece.

Rivera said the mural was “About the marriage of the artistic expression of the North and of the South on this continent. I believe in order to make an American art, a real American art, this will be necessary, this blending of the art of the Indian, the Mexican, the Eskimo, with the kind of urge which makes the machine, the invention in the material side of life, which is also an artistic urge, the same urge primarily but in a different form of expression.”

On December 8th., 2011, on the 125th anniversary of Diego Rivera’s birth, Google-doodle-logo gave tribute to the Mexican legendary artist, painter, muralist, and political activist.

“The doodle features Rivera hard at work on a mural chronicling Mexico’s cultural transformation—from its agrarian roots to bustling cities complete with skyscrapers and airplanes—with Google’s logo spelled out in the background.”

Today, Rivera’s murals grace government buildings and cultural institutions across Mexico and the United States. Influenced by the Mexican Revolution (1910-16) and the Russian Revolution (1917), Rivera believed “That art should play a role in empowering working people to understand their own histories.” He wanted his art to be accessible and viewed by the public at large rather than confined to art galleries. While he was classically trained at Academia de San Carlos School of Painting in Mexico City in his youth, and actually begin to draw at age three, later, as an accomplished painter in his twenties, he traveled to Italy and studied Renaissance fresco style of painting.

Upon returning from Europe, he had the opportunity to establish himself as a muralist painter and implement his innovative ideas when in 1921, the Mexican government commissioned Rivera, along with Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros to paint a series of frescoes in schools and government buildings as part of a new cultural program. This movement, later known, as the Mexican Mural Renaissance would lay the foundation for Rivera’s highly sought-after mural work in the United States from 1930-1950. Rivera’s massive frescoes depict social, historical, national and working class themes, religious motifs, pre-conquest iconography, and the industrialization of America at the turn of the 20th. Century.

Born on December 8, 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico,  Diego Rivera, whose career spanned over sixty years, was one of Mexico’s most influential painters and one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. “Since his death in 1957, his hundreds of public artworks, his many oils and watercolors, and his political daring continue to contribute immensely to the development of public art across the Americas.”

Music: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23: I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky – Performed by Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra