Sunday, January 13, 2013

Diego Rivera

I've been an admirer of Frida since reading about Carr, O'Keefe, Kahlo: Places of their Own.  I wish I'd been able to take in the show at the McMichael when it came to town, but I never got around to it, and swore I wouldn't let the opportunity to see Frida pass by again this time around. So, back in the autumn when the BPYC book club kicked around the idea of pairing a book with a gallery visit, I quickly suggested this coming exhibit.

Five of us went together on Friday night, in advance of our coming book club meeting to discuss The Diary of Frida Kahlo.

Ironic to me that, decades later, I am being introduced to the art of her husband via her reputation. In their lifetime, Diego was by far the preeminent Mexican artist, and Frida far less appreciated.  Her reputation has grown since her death, to the point where she has become both a Mexican and feminist icon.

I didn't really know much about Diego Rivera before this visit, other than having a passing familiarity with his political murals. He had quite an artistic range, from his early days in Europe, where he hung out with the likes of Picasso and Modigliani and tested his restless talent on emerging European styles like cubism.

Upon his return to Mexico Rivera established and evolved a unique nativistic style. There were a few pieces of his I fell in love with, the Calla Lily Vendor and the Flower Carrier being among them.

The Flower Carrier
The Calla Lily Vendor
The Hammock really stood out for me, the way it depicted such light-hearted ease. Bliss in the sun, sailboats in the background. Such a contrast to the dark colours and theme of pain and oppression that ran through most of the show. He painted it in 1956, two years after Kahlo's death and one year before his own. Given the timing I can only think he painted the scene to escape a time of intense suffering and loneliness in his own life.

The Hammock, 1956
Diego Rivera’s extensive artistic production made him paint a wide variety of themes, including portraits of models, friends, and indigenous Mexicans, as well as historical subjects and landscapes, such as the Sunsets series. After receiving medical treatment in Moscow, Rivera accepted Dolores Olmedo’s invitation to rest and convalesce in her house in Acapulco. Located near La Quebrada, the house offers a spectacular view of the beach and the bay, which was captured by the painter at different times of the day, in different atmospheres. In this painting, Rivera portraited the daughter of Dolores Olmedo, who was with a friend, and they were supposed to study, but they rather took a rest with the beautiful background of Acapulco bay behind. (from the Google Art Project)

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