Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gladys

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:35 am

FRIDA'S TRAGEDY

One incident will always cloud my happy memories of Detroit. It concerned Frida; she was the chief sufferer. Three years before, in Mexico, Frida had been one of the victims in a horrible traffic accident. A bus in which she was riding had collided with a trolley car. Only five passengers in the vehicle had escaped with their lives. Frida was carried from the scene literally in pieces. Her vertebral column, her pelvis, and her left arm were fractured. Her right leg was broken in eleven places. Still worse, an iron rod had pierced her body from one side to the other, severing her matrix.

The doctors were unable to understand how she had survived. But she had not only survived, she became her lively self again. However, as a result of the accident, she would never be able to carry a baby, and the doctors warned her not to attempt to conceive.

For Frida this was a terrible psychological blow. Since the age of twelve, as a wild and precocious schoolgirl, she had been obsessed with the idea of having my baby. When asked her greatest ambition, she would announce to her flustered teachers and schoolmates, "To have a baby by Diego Rivera just as soon as I can convince him to cooperate."

Frida was not deterred by the doctors' warnings. While we were in Detroit, she became pregnant.

Her pregnancy was painful. The many women with whom Frida had made friends in Detroit, who had come to love her, did everything in their power to help her have the child. With the best of care, however, she suffered a torturous miscarriage. She became so ill that I forbade her ever to conceive again.

Nevertheless, Frida's desire to have a baby was so strong that she again risked her life by becoming pregnant three other times. Each pregnancy ended in a painful loss. But none was as acutely distressful as this first one in Detroit.

Frida's tragedy -- for such she felt her experience to be -- inspired her to paint a canvas depicting a miscarriage and expressing the sensations and emotions it gives rise to. She also painted a picture representing her own birth. Immediately thereafter, she began work on a series of masterpieces which had no precedent in the history of art -- paintings which exalted the feminine qualities of endurance to truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering. Never before had a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas as Frida did at this time in Detroit.

During Frida’s period of recovery, I occupied the greater part of my time in attempting to help migratory Mexicans, of whom several hundred then lived in Detroit, in constant dread of being deported. Native Americans were voicing resentment at these foreigners receiving welfare checks from the city. Their own needy, they said, were a heavy enough burden to carry during this time of universal bankruptcy.

There were some among my former countrymen who thought that conditions were better back in Mexico. Nostalgically, they dreamed of establishing agricultural colonies south of the Rio Grande. The task I set myself was to convince them, through a series of lectures, that a return to Mexico would not solve their problems, that having established roots in the United States, they must act with all other Americans to achieve a betterment of their economic situation.

Unfortunately, I failed in my purpose. So that they would not think I was exaggerating the difficulties of colonization in order to avoid helping them, I gave them most of the money I had earned painting the Arts Institute frescoes. With that subsidy, they returned to Mexico and established three colonies. Only one, established near Acapulco, survived. A few years later its members repaid my kindness in a unique way.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:35 am

HOLOCAUST IN ROCKEFELLER CENTER

WHEN NELSON ROCKEFELLER DECIDED to decorate the main floor of his new R.C.A. Building in Radio City with murals, he also decided to get the best artists for the job. His choices were Picasso, Matisse, and myself. But he set about securing our services in the worst possible way. Through the architect of the building, Raymond Hood, he asked us to submit sample murals. Now, there are few indignities that can be thrown in the face of an established painter greater than to offer him a commission on terms which imply any doubts as to his abilities. But the invitations went further, they specified how the sample murals were to be done. Picasso flatly refused. As for Matisse, he politely but firmly replied that the specifications did not accord with his style of painting. I answered Hood that I was frankly baffled by this unorthodox way of dealing with me and could only say no.

Having thus quickly lost Picasso and Matisse, Rockefeller determined that at the very least he would have me. In Mav, 1932, he entered into the negotiations directly since, on many matters, Hood and I could not see eye to eye. Hood's idea of a mural was typically America; a mural was a mere accessory, an ornament. He could not understand that its function was to extend the dimensions of the architecture. Hood wanted me to work in a funereal black, white and gray rather than in color, and on canvas rather than in fresco. Our differences piled up when I heard that two inferior painters, Frank Brangwyn and Jose Marla Sert, had been given the walls previously offered to Picasso and Matisse, walls that flanked the one offered me. Amid this difference and tension, Rockefeller moved with the calm of the practiced politician. He refused to be ruffled. By the fall of the year, he had persuaded Hood to let me work in fresco and in color, and we had agreed on the terms for the sum of $21,000 for myself and my assistants. I was to cover slightly more than one thousand square feet of wall. The theme offered me was an exciting one: "Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future." After the complicated preliminaries, I entered into my assignment with enthusiasm. By the beginning of November, I had completed my preliminary sketches, submitted them, and received prompt and unqualified approval from Rockefeller. In March of 1933, Frida and I arrived in New York from Detroit, greeted by the icy blasts of the New York winter.

I set to work immediately. My wall, standing high above the elevators which faced the main entrance of the building, had already been prepared by my assistants, the scaffold erected, the full-scale sketches traced and stenciled on the wet surface, the colors ground. I painted rapidly and easily. Everything was going smoothly -- perhaps too smoothly. Rockefeller had not yet seen me or my work, but in the beginning of April, he wrote me that he had seen a photograph of the fresco in one of the newspapers and was enthusiastic about what I was doing. He hoped that I would be finished by the first of May, when the building was to be officially opened to the public.

The center of my mural showed a worker at the controls of a large machine. In front of him, emerging from space, was a large hand holding a globe on which the dynamics of chemistry and biology, the recombination of atoms, and the division of a cell, were represented schematically. Two elongated ellipses crossed and met in the figure of the worker: one showing the wonders of the telescope and its revelations of bodies in space; the other showing the microscope and its discoveries -- cells, germs, bacteria, and delicate tissues. Above the germinating soil at the bottom, I projected two visions of civilization. On the left of the crossed ellipses, I showed a night-club scene of the debauched rich, a battlefield with men in the holocaust of war, and unemployed workers in a demonstration being clubbed by the police. On the right, I painted corresponding scenes of life in a socialist country: a May Day demonstration of marching, singing workers; an athletic stadium filled with girls exercising their bodies; and a figure of Lenin, symbolically clasping the hands of a black American and a white Russian soldier and worker, as allies of the future.

A newspaper reporter for a New York afternoon paper came to interview me about my work, then nearing completion. He was particularly struck by this last scene and asked me for an explanation. I said that, as long as the Soviet Union was in existence, Nazi fascism could never be sure of its survival. Therefore, the Soviet Union must expect to be attacked by this reactionary enemy. If the United States wished to preserve its democratic forms, it would ally itself with Russia against fascism. Since Lenin was the pre-eminent founder of the Soviet Union and also the first and most altruistic theorist of modern communism, I used him as the center of the inevitable alliance between the Russian and the American. In doing this, I said, I was quite aware that I was going against public opinion.

Having heard me out, the reporter, smiling politely, remarked that, apart from being a remarkable painter, I was also an excellent humorist.

The following day the reporter's story appeared in his paper, The World Telegram. It told what should have surprised nobody, least of all Nelson Rockefeller, who was fully acquainted not only with my past and my political ideas but with my actual plans and sketches: that I was painting a revolutionary mural. However, the story suggested that I had hoaxed my patron, Rockefeller, which was, of course, not true. Thus the storm broke. I, who had become inured to storms, only painted on with greater speed. The first of May had passed, and I was nearly finished when I received a letter from Nelson Rockefeller requesting me to paint out the face of Lenin and substitute the face of an unknown man. Reasonable. However, one change might lead to demands for others. And hadn't every artist the right to use whatever models he wished in his painting?

I gave the problem the most careful consideration. My assistants were all for a flat denial of the request and threatened to strike if I yielded. The reply I sent Rockefeller, two days after receiving his letter was, however, conciliatory in tone. To explain my refusal to paint out the head of Lenin, I pointed out that a figure of Lenin had appeared in my earliest sketches submitted to Raymond Hood. If anyone now objected to the appearance of this dead great man in my mural, such a person would, very likely, object to my entire concept. "Therefore," I wrote, never expecting that a presumably cultured man like Rockefeller would act upon my words so literally and so savagely, "rather than mutilate the conception, I should prefer the physical destruction of the conception in its entirety, but preserving, at least, its integrity."

I suggested as a compromise that I replace the contrasting night-club scene in the left half of the mural with the figure of Abraham Lincoln (symbolizing the reunification of the American states and the abolition of slavery), surrounded by John Brown, Nat Turner, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, or with a scientific figure like Cyrus McCormick, whose reaping machine had contributed to the victory of the Union forces by facilitating the harvesting of wheat in the fields depleted of men.

As I awaited Rockefeller's response, the hours ticked by in silence. I was seized by a premonition that no further word would come, but that something terrible, instead, was about to happen. I summoned a photographer to take pictures of the almost finished mural, but the guards, who had been ordered to admit no photographers, barred him. At last, one of my assistants, Lucienne Bloch, smuggled in a Leica, concealed in her bosom. Mounting the scaffold, she surreptitiously snapped as many pictures as she could without getting caught.

On the day in the second week in May when Rockefeller finally made his move, the private police force of Radio City, reinforced the week before, was doubled. My assistants and I, aware that we were watched, that forces were being deployed as if for a military operation, worked on, pretending to ourselves that nothing was happening, or nothing as bad as we feared. But at dinnertime, when our numbers were at their smallest, three files of men surrounded my scaffold. Behind them appeared a representative of the firm of Todd, Robertson and Todd, managing agents for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Like a victorious commander, he asked me to come down for a parley. My assistants present at this dark moment, Ben Shahn, Hideo Noda, Lou Bloch, Lucienne Bloch, Sanchez Flores, and Arthur Niedendorff, looked at me helplessly. Helplessly, I let myself be ushered into the working shack, the telephone of which had been cut off, acknowledged the order to stop work, and received my check.

Other men, meanwhile, removed my scaffold and replaced it with smaller ones, from which they affixed canvas frames covering the entire wall. Other men closed off the entrance with thick curtaining. As I left the building, I heard airplanes roaring overhead. Mounted policemen patrolled the streets. And then one of the very scenes I had depicted in my mural materialized before my eyes. A demonstration of workers began to form; the policemen charged, the workers dispersed; and the back of a seven-year-old girl, whose little legs could not carry her to safety in time, was injured by the blow of a club.

One last thing remained. In February of 1934, after I had returned to Mexico, my Radio City mural was smashed to pieces from the wall. Thus was a great victory won over a portrait of Lenin; thus was free expression honored in America.

One result of the fracas was the cancellation of my General Motors assignment, and I was cut off from commissions to paint in the United States for a long time. Rockefeller, wishing to avoid further bad publicity or the nuisance of a court action, had paid me my entire fee. Out of the $21,000, however, $6,300 went to Mrs. Paine as her agent's commission; about $8,000 covered the cost of materials and the wages of assistants; and I was left with somewhat less than $7,000. Considering the loss of present and future commissions, I was advised by my attorney to sue Rockefeller for $250,000 for damages and indemnification. However, I did not sue; a legal action would have tended to nullify my position.

Rockefeller's action in covering the mural -- with canvas frames and later with strips of sheath paper -- became a cause celebre. Sides were drawn. A group of conservative artists calling themselves the Advance American Art Commission exploited the occasion to condemn the hiring of foreign painters in the United States. In contrast to these chauvinistic second-raters, who would have substituted a national-origin standard for that of artistic excellence, and who applauded Rockefeller's act of vandalism, another group of artists, writers, and intellectuals, including Walter Pach, George Biddle, Bruce Bliven, Robert L. Cantwell, Lewis Gannett, Rockwell Kent, H. L. Mencken, Lewis Mumford, Waldo Pierce, and Boardman Robinson, besought Rockefeller to reconsider what he had done. It was largely because of such protests that Rockefeller waited nearly a year before he destroyed my mural. Two days after it had been covered over, Raymond Hood announced that it would receive "very careful handling." At the worst, two possibilities were suggested as its fate: that it might temporarily be screened with a canvas mural; or that it might be removed, plaster and all, for preservation elsewhere.

Oddly enough Communist leaders such as Robert Minor, Sidney Bloomfield, and my old friend Joe Freeman, editor of the New Masses, denounced the work as "reactionary" and "counterrevolutionary" and condemned me for having betrayed the masses by painting in capitalistic buildings!

In the spring of 1933, I aired my views over a small radio station in New York: "The case of Diego Rivera is a small matter. I want to explain more clearly the principles involved. Let us take, as an example, an American millionaire who buys the Sistine Chapel, which contains the work of Michelangelo ... Would that millionaire have the right to destroy the Sistine Chapel?

"Let us suppose that another millionaire should buy the unpublished manuscripts in which a scientist like Einstein had left the key to his mathematical theories. Would that millionaire have the right to burn those manuscripts? ... In human creation there is something which belongs to humanity at large, and ... no individual owner has the right to destroy it or keep it solely for his own enjoyment."
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:36 am

RECONSTRUCTION

I STILL HAD HOPES of reconstructing the mural (from Lucienne's photographs) somewhere in the United States. Walls enough were offered to me, but either they were of the wrong dimensions or the buildings in which they stood were unsuitable to the projection of my theme. At last I hit upon the New Workers School, then located on West 14th Street, and maintained by a communist group in opposition to the Communist Party. Its auditorium wall seemed almost adequate. But the building was only rented, and might therefore pass into the hands of other occupants. Besides, it was so old that it was likely soon to fall to the wreckers. Rockefeller would then have the satisfaction of seeing my mural destroyed twice. So I abandoned the idea of reconstructing the Radio City fresco there. But the future pleasure I might have in spending the last of Rockefeller's money to decorate a workers' school struck me as too attractive to forgo.

I decided to paint a series of movable panels, which the school could transport when it moved to another building. My theme was to be a "Portrait of America," in which, through representative figures of each period, I would create a dynamic history of the United States from the colonial era to 1933, illuminating the continuous struggle between the privileged and the dispossessed. To insure the historical accuracy of my portrayals, the faculty and student body of the school labored as one to supply me with contemporary documents of the successive periods, including newspapers, photographs, woodcuts, caricatures, prints, and reproductions of oils. I did twenty-one panels in all, representing such objects as the American Revolution, Shays' Rebellion, the westward expansion, the antislavery movement, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the I.W.W. and the Syndicalist Movement, modern industry, World War I, the new liberties, imperialism, the Depression, and the New Deal. Each panel was filled with masses of people at work or in conflict, but individuals stood out as leaders and spokesmen. So it was that I painted portrait interpretations of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Henry D. Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and other figures of importance in American history and thought.

When the New Workers School moved from 14th to 33rd Street, the panels, each weighing about 300 pounds, were carried out of the auditorium, loaded into vans, and shipped to the new plant, where they remained until the school was disbanded. The International Ladies' Garment Workers Union then acquired them, and they are now on permanent display at Unity House, a vacation resort operated for members of the union and their families in Forest Park, Pennsylvania.

It was not in the United States but in Mexico, to which I returned later the same year, that I finally reconstructed the "Rockefeller" mural.

Orozco and I were commissioned to do two large panels in the Palace of Fine Arts. Although the dimensions of the surface were not quite right, I decided that this was the place where I would bring the murdered painting back to life. I made certain changes. In the extra space of the Palace wall, I added a few figures not in the Radio City fresco. The most important of the additions was a portrait of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., which I inserted into the night-club scene, his head but a short distance away from the venereal disease germs pictured in the ellipse of the microscope.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:36 am

THE NAZIS LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH ME

BEFORE ENGAGING in this project, I had returned to the National Palace stairway. My vision now crystallized in the acid of my recent bitter experience, I began to paint Mexico today and tomorrow. I depicted the betrayal of the Revolution by self-seeking demagogues. In contrast with their millennial promises, I painted the reality of Mexico today: strikes being crushed; farmers and workers being shot or sent off to the penal colony of Islas Marias. At the top of the stairs, I portrayed Karl Marx exhorting the suffering workers to break their chains, and pointing to a vision of a future industrialized and socialized land of peace and plenty.

While working on the second Rockefeller mural, I contracted a severe eye ailment which forced me, for a time, to leave the scaffold. Because of this disability I had to give up several commissions, among them a mural for the new Medical School in Mexico. I confined myself, for the time being, to easel painting.

At this period, the German Ambassador to Mexico resided in a house near mine. Always attired in a formal morning suit, he would stroll each day up and down the street before my studio. People in the neighborhood, amused by his rigid manner and sombre attire, called him "the undertaker." I had recently done a highly uncomplimentary painting of Hitler and other Nazi officials, and I knew that I was not in favor with this gentleman.

On three separate occasions, two typical SS men had visited my dealer, Alberto Misrachi, subtly "advising" him to remove the painting from his display window. Misrachi warned them that if they approached him again, he would have them arrested. When he told me of his experiences, I became terribly enraged. I declared that if his visitors bothered him again, he should tell them to deal with me personally.

A few days later two shots were fired into my workroom. They were aimed at a typist sitting in a chair in which Frida usually sat conversing with me as I painted. The typist was Frida's sister, Christine, who was several inches shorter than she. The bullets passed just over her head.

Afterwards, it occurred to me that the would-be assassins had thought that by killing Frida they could hurt me infinitely more than if they struck at me. In this respect, they were absolutely right.

Hot with rage as soon as she realized what had happened, Christine searched for and found my gun. Clutching it in her hand, she leapt into her car, drove at breakneck speed, and caught up with the Germans. She shot one of them in the leg and forced the other, at gunpoint, to surrender. Then she brought them both to the police station.

A few days afterward they "escaped" from jail. Nobody had any idea where they had fled to until I received a message from Acapulco. The message, sent by one of the migrant Mexican workers whom I had subsidized in Detroit to set up a colony near the famous resort city, simply stated that two men, one with a limp, had been found hanged in the vicinity. I knew at once that my charity had been repaid.

When the news of the hangings became known, the Minister of the Interior summoned me to his office. As we were friends, he asked me directly whether I had been responsible for the execution of the two Germans. I replied that, unfortunately, I had not been, but while envious, I was not unhappy that others had taken the task upon themselves.

While we were talking, the German Ambassador dropped in to see the Minister. The Ambassador said he hoped no animosity would arise between the nations of Mexico and Germany over the incident. The dead men, he said, were merely soldiers who had fallen in the line of duty. He desired that the inquiry into the deaths be halted at once lest this trifling episode be magnified into an international incident.

When he had done speaking, the Minister of the Interior introduced me to him. The Ambassador clicked his heels, Prussian fashion, and bowed from the waist.

I said, "I see you're not using an intellectual approach in dealing with Mexicans."

The Nazi, unable to look me straight in the eye, falteringly answered, "Ja, ja," and left immediately.

The next day a stunningly beautiful woman, who introduced herself as the chief secretary of the German Embassy, called at my studio. She said she had always adored my work and wanted to buy everything I had on hand. She wouldn't think of returning from Mexico to her Fatherland without a goodly collection of my paintings. Of course I was flattered that so beautiful a woman should show so much interest, and we became very good friends.

Shortly before she was to leave for Germany, I asked her to report back to the German Ambassador that I thought this the best way to deal with Mexicans. And when I again chanced to meet him, the Ambassador remarked that my message had been completely in order. He, too, preferred to be dealt with as I had been.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:36 am

PANI LOSES AN EYE

WITH TIME OUT to take care of my eye ailment, I completed my fresco at the Palace of Fine Arts in the spring of 1936, nineteen months after I had begun working on it. My old friend, Alberto Pani, who had helped subsidize my journey to Italy, now offered me a commission to paint four panels for the large dining room in the Hotel Reforma, which he was in the process of building.

The fee Pani agreed to was 4,000 pesos, or about $1,000. In keeping with the decor of the room, I decided to use carnival themes. As my plans developed, I was led to give my paintings of present-day subjects touches of a satirical nature. Aware from my still recent experience in New York that these embellishments might provoke controversy, I made the panels movable, so that if Pani decided to play Rockefeller, there would be no excuse to destroy them. In this, as will be seen, I showed considerable foresight.

Of the four panels, two depicted traditional Mexican festivals: one centering about the ancient Yautepec god of war, Huichilobos; the other honoring the bandit hero Augustin Lorenzo, who fought against the French and once unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap the Empress Carlotta. Of the remaining two panels, dedicated to more contemporary themes, one burlesqued the Mexico of the tourists and lady folklorists -- desiccated urban types whose imbecile pretensions were satirized by asses' ears sprouting from their heads.

The other depicted the carnival which is Mexican life today. Here men in symbolic uniforms, with mask-like faces, charged upon straw scarecrows as the street crowds obediently blew their noise-makers. Among them, a pig-faced general danced with a woman symbolizing Mexico; his hand surreptitiously reached over her shoulder to steal fruit from the basket on her back. A man with sheep's features, symbolizing the hireling intellectual, broadcast an official account of the festivities, holding aloft a dry bone. Over his shoulder peeped a grinning cleric. Behind an enormous, out-of-scale figure was the head of a Mexican capitalist. The ugly, grinning giant who obscured him and dominated the panel bore features of Hitler, Mussolini, Franklin D, Roosevelt, and the Mikado. A flag which he held in his right hand was a composite of the colors of Germany, Italy, the United States, and Japan.

My old friend Pani watched the progress of my panels with affable smiles. If he had any objections to any of the details, he never declared them to my face. Instead, when I had completed my work, he secretly sent his brother Arturo to make the changes he desired. Arturo painted out the American portion of the giant's flag; he also removed the thieving hand of General Pig from Miss Mexico's basket; and he altered the features of a dancing tiger who resembled Calles. Informed of these "improvements" a few nights afterward, I charged into the hotel. Guns were drawn, the police arrived, and I was taken to jail to spend the night. The following day the building trades union called a sympathy strike.

Apparently desirous of ending all of Pani's legal troubles in one swoop, the Attorney General of the Republic summoned me, the workers' legal representative, and Pani's attorney to a hearing at his office. After the formal preliminaries, the Attorney General cited an old law which held that anyone who altered a work of art, while preserving the signature of its original creator, was guilty of forgery. Since my agreement with Pani contained no provision permitting alterations, the Attorney General ruled Pani guilty of that offense. He ordered Pani to pay not only the stipulated fee but a heavy fine for ordering the act of forgery, and full compensation to the workers for wages lost while out on strike. I knew that this judgment would infuriate Pani, and I remarked to Frida that we must expect some act of retaliation from him.

Pani fought the judgment in the courts and lost; and while the case remained alive, the strike continued. One day, accompanied by a labor inspector, Frida and I arrived outside the hotel in the capacity of supplementary guards for the workers. Upon seeing us, Pani immediately dispatched his brother Arturo to summon help from the police station. Arturo offered the police lieutenant a bribe of two hundred pesos to throw us in jail. The officer indignantly refused and accused Arturo of attempted corruption.

Before the charge could be legally presented, however, Arturo somehow managed to have Frida whisked off to the police station. Enraged near to madness by this, I warned Arturo that as soon as I got Frida out, I would deal with him in my own way. Arturo was frightened by my show of anger; he whined that he should not be held responsible, that he had only followed brother Alberto's orders. If I wanted satisfaction, I should deal with Alberto.

In blind rage I answered him with the first threat which entered my mind. "Very well, Arturo, crawl back to your brother and tell him that this dirty little trick is going to cost him one of his eyes."

Gambler's luck was with me. My random threat soon came true, though through no action of mine. At a bullfight not long afterwards, an excited, drunken army captain threw an empty bottle into the air. It lit on Pani's skull and put out one of his eyes.

The panels were finally removed from the hotel and replaced by mirrors. Pani kept them in storage for a time and then sold them to Misrachi, who stored them in the warehouse of his Central Art Galleries in Mexico City.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:36 am

AN INVITATION FROM MUSSOLINI

IN THE SAME YEAR, 1936, I was invited to paint in Italy. The offer came from Mussolini himself, through a most unique envoy, Margherita Sarfatti, an acquaintance of my Paris days, who had been Mussolini's mistress.

In 1908, when I first met Margherita, she was a member of the "salon set," also frequented by Angelica Balabanova. Around these two beautiful young women clustered such men as Modigliani, Riccioto Canudo, the brothers Garibaldi, and Margherita's lover of the time, Valentine de Saint Point. One activity of the group was the publication of a magazine which was regarded as an organ of the French imperialists.

The one member of the group who differed politically from the others was Angelica. She was, in fact, a personal friend of Lenin and one of the most eminent social revolutionaries in Paris. During this period Mussolini, then an Italian Socialist leader, became Angelica's lover. Soon he was the puppet of the fiery Angelica, echoing her every word and thought; for a time in fact, Angelica was Mussolini's brain. Then one day, at the home of Saint Point, Mussolini met and fell in love with Margherita, deserted Angelica, and took Margherita as his mistress. Assuming Angelica's old role, Margherita turned his thinking completely about, nurturing the germ of fascism which had always lain dormant in Il Duce's mind.

My telephone rang at one o'clock in the morning. I picked up the receiver and heard Misrachi at the other end of the line. Apologizing for disturbing me at this late hour, he jubilantly informed me that a very lovely European lady had purchased every painting of mine in his gallery and was going to take them all back with her to Europe. Before she left, however, she wanted to speak to me personally. Misrachi urged me to grant her this favor. I had no idea then who she might be, but when I heard her voice on the telephone, I immediately recognized it as Margherita's.

She said, "Diego, you old fool, I've been thrown over by the Old Man and now even you refuse to talk to your old Parisian friend. I wanted to speak to you, not for personal reasons, but because I have a message from him which I must give you before I leave Mexico. Mussolini instructed me to tell you how much your work is appreciated in Italy, and that anytime you wish to come to Italy, you're welcome. You can paint whatever you like, and everything you need will be at your disposal. He also said this: if you ever feel there's no safe place left in the world for you to plant your feet, you'll always find a haven in Italy."

I answered Margherita politely -- my politeness based solely upon my former acquaintance with Mussolini and herself: "Thank you for your message, Margherita, and thank Mussolini for his invitation. But tell Mussolini that I am quite certain he'll have dire need for a safe place to put his feet much sooner than I."

It was my year to be prophetic. As in the case of Pani, my chance remark proved to be an augury. Ten years later my old fellow Parisian, Mussolini, was strung up with his feet high in the air.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:37 am

FRIDA: TRIUMPH AND ANGUISH

FOLLOWING THE AFFAIR of the Hotel Reforma, poor health kept me from painting murals for several years. In his biography of me (Diego Rivera; His Life and Times, New York, 1939), Bertram Wolfe dramatizes this period of languishment as a kind of artistic exile which I incurred because of my political beliefs, but his interpretation is not in accord with the facts.

The Medical School fresco which I had contracted to paint was not done because of my eye ailment; the commission was never revoked. Another commission I had, to do a series of frescoes in the corridors of the National Palace, was also postponed but never invalidated; and, in 1942, I actually began the work. During these years of bad health, I became passionately absorbed by a less exacting artistic activity -- making spot sketches of aspects of Mexican life. Many of these sketches evolved into drawings and watercolors. More important, they stimulated me to observe more closely than ever before the life of my countrymen. I am still making use, both in terms of subject matter and technique, of the experiments I then engaged in.

It was about this time that Frida, beyond all doubt, proved her love for me. We were having lunch one day at the Acapulco Restaurant in Mexico City, when four hired assassins of the reactionary General Saturnino Cedillo walked up to our table. Cedillo had ordered the execution of all revolutionary partisans of General Cardenas. When the assassins calmly drew their guns and aimed them at me, I was sure my end had come.

Quick as an arrow, Frida leaped out of her chair in front of me. She screamed at the gunmen to shoot her first if they dared. To provoke them, she called them cowards and practically every foul name in her ample vocabulary. Her hysterical shouting roused everyone in the dining room.

The four killers, shocked into immobility, stood frozen, guns in hand, like statues of themselves. Finally, awakened to reality by the swelling hubbub around them, they wheeled and ran into the street. Some days later, while trying to escape across the northern border into the United States, all four were shot down.

However, when the reaction to this narrow escape set in afterwards, Frida became very ill and nervous and ran a high fever. When she recovered, she resumed her painting, now with grave intensity, for she was preparing for her first New York show, only a few months off.

Before she left for New York, taking with her the best of her recent work, I gave her, among other letters of introduction, one to Clare Boothe Luce, wife of the magazine tycoon and recently American Ambassador to Italy. I had imagined that Frida would find Mrs. Luce an interesting person to know, but she didn't take to her at all. She found her cold, brittle, and impenetrably defensive.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Luce asked Frida to do one painting for her, and Frida complied. Apparently, Mrs. Luce disliked the work, for she returned it to Frida only a few weeks after she had received it.

But Mrs. Luce's coldness was not shared by the art critics, and Frida's New York show was warmly acclaimed. I suggested that, instead of returning to Mexico, she proceed to Paris and complete her triumph. Frida was reluctant and afraid. To persuade her, I argued that one should take every opportunity that contains the promise of fulfillment or pleasure. I was quite certain she would be well received in Paris.

So, in 1939, Frida sailed for Paris and conquered it. The more rigorous the critics, the greater their enthusiasm.

The praise of two men in particular gilded the aureole of Frida's happiness. One was Vasily Kandinsky, probably the greatest pioneer in modern abstractionism; the other was Marcel Duchamp, one of the masters of abstract expressionism [sic]. Kandinsky was so moved by Frida's paintings that, right before everyone in the exhibition room, he lifted her in his arms, and kissed her cheeks and brow, while tears of sheer emotion ran down his face. Even Picasso, the difficult of difficults, sang the praises of Frida's artistic and personal qualities. From the moment he met her until the day she left for home, Picasso was under her spell.

In mere weeks, Frida won over the Parisian world of art more completely than more famous painters had after years of struggle. Her triumph spilled over into the world of fashion. That season Schiaparelli introduced La Robe Madame Rivera, a Parisian interpretation of Frida's beautiful style of Mexican dress. And the most widely-read high-fashion magazine appeared on the stands with a cover photograph of Frida's right hand, together with an elegant jewel box containing four of her favorite gems. Amid all this concern for novel, suddenly modish trinkets, it was hard to believe Europe was tottering on the brink of another world war.

But then the bad luck that always stalked poor Frida struck again. She suddenly fell ill and had to be taken to a hospital. Though her many new friends pampered her, she was in an agony to get home, and as soon as she was well enough to travel, she changed her convalescent's bed for a ship berth. She arrived in Mexico miserably sick, suffering the recurrent pain of her old accident.

I never was -- the reader may be bored with my repeating it -- a faithful husband, even with Frida. As with Angeline and Lupe, I indulged my caprices and had affairs. Now, moved by the extremity of Frida's condition, I began taking stock of myself as a marriage partner. I found very little which could be said in my favor. And yet I knew I could not change.

Once, on discovering that I was having an affair with her best friend, Frida had left me, only to return with somewhat diminished pride but undiminished love. I loved her too much to want to cause her suffering, and to spare her further torments, I decided to separate from her.

In the beginning, I only hinted at the idea of a divorce, but when the hints brought no response, I made the suggestion openly. Frida, who had by now recovered her health, responded calmly that she would prefer to endure anything rather than lose me completely.

The situation between us grew worse and worse. One evening, entirely on impulse, I telephoned her to plead for her consent to a divorce, and in my anxiety, fabricated a stupid and vulgar pretext. I dreaded a long, heart-wrenching discussion so much that I impulsively seized on the quickest way to my end.

It worked. Frida declared that she too wanted an immediate divorce. My "victory" quickly changed to gall in my heart. We had been married now for thirteen years. We still loved each other. I simply wanted to be free to carry on with any woman who caught my fancy. Yet Frida did not object to my infidelity as such. What she could not understand was my choosing women who were either unworthy of me or inferior to her. She took it as a personal humiliation to be abandoned for sluts. To let her draw any line, however, was this not to circumscribe my freedom? Or was I simply the depraved victim of my own appetites? And wasn't it merely a consoling lie to think that a divorce would put an end to Frida's suffering? Wouldn't Frida suffer even more?

During the two years we lived apart, Frida turned out some of her best work, sublimating her anguish in her painting. And then, because of certain events which involved her, although indirectly, she became weak and sick again. I shall now relate these events exactly, if not always in the sequence in which they occurred.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:37 am

TROTSKY

ON MAY 24, 1940, twenty men disguised as policemen burst into the Mexican home of Leon Trotsky and his wife and sprayed his bedroom with Thompson submachine guns. The Trotskys saved themselves by dropping flat on the floor while their beds were riddled by about three hundred rounds. Questioned by the police as to the identity of his would-be assassins, Trotsky suggested that it might prove enlightening to investigate a station wagon belonging to a well-known local painter which had been seen in the neighborhood at the time of the attack.

One night, several days later, a platoon of policemen, moving silently through the street, cordoned off my studio in San Angel. I knew nothing of this action until I received a telephone call from the movie actress Paulette Goddard, whose portrait I had recently begun painting. Paulette was staying at an inn just across from my studio. Chancing to look outside her window, she saw what was happening and immediately rang me up.

"Diego," she said, her voice trembling with excitement, "if I know anything about gangster movies, brother, you're on the spot. The cops are swarming around your studio. And they look like they mean business."

Visiting my studio at the time was the Hungarian-American painter Irene Bohus. Despite the fact that I had no notion what the police wanted with me, I recognized trouble and decided to get away. Irene agreed to help me, and I quickly worked out a plan. Irene left the studio, carrying as many canvases as she could under her arms. She descended very slowly by the outside stairway, bidding me a long, loud adieu in English. After responding to Irene's first words, I left the door wide open and ran back to put on all the lights in my studio. This was to give the impression that I had resumed my work. However, I immediately ran down the inside stairway to Irene's car, safely concealed in the inner courtyard. By the time Irene, who had meanwhile been pretending to bombard me with chatter, entered the car, I was lying flat on the floor inside. She piled all the canvases she had taken on top of me, concealing me completely. Then she swung the car out of the courtyard and into the road, whisking me out from under the very noses of Police Colonel de la Rosa and all thirty of his men, alertly waiting to move in on me with drawn revolvers.

When the police finally entered my house and found me gone, they proceeded to search it for evidence. Probably angered over being outwitted, they broke some items of my valuable archeological collection. My watch and certain other personal belongings also disappeared.

They stayed the whole night, awaiting my return. By next morning, realizing that I was not going to oblige them, they appropriated my station wagon and arrested my two chauffeurs. They kept the chauffeurs in custody for two weeks, subjecting them to all the devices used by police to extort confessions, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the police laboratory had made a thorough analysis of my station wagon, but since I had had no connection with the attack, they found nothing, and their efforts to implicate me remained fruitless.

During all this time I stayed in hiding. For, in spite of my innocence, I did not want to become involved in any way in the intrigues which had come to surround Trotsky. My refuge was never discovered by the police. Paulette, enjoying her role in this real-life drama, brought me delicacies and the finest of wines on her frequent visits. Her lovely presence alone was enough to make my retreat a delight. In the meanwhile, my portrait of Paulette, as well as all of Irene's paintings, were removed from the studio and put in the custody of a good friend, American Vice-Consul MacGregor. Since both Paulette and Irene were American citizens, he was merely acting to protect their property.

What were the reasons behind Trotsky's suspicion of me and behind the eagerness of the police to act for him against a citizen of Mexico? It was I who had been instrumental in securing Trotsky's admittance into Mexico after every country in the world had closed its doors to him. I had acted only after many pleas by his supporters to use my influence. In yielding to them, I had been swayed by two considerations: my belief that a man persecuted for political reasons in his own country was entitled to refuge in another; and the fact that having been expelled from the Communist Party in 1929, I would not be betraying it.

At the same time I was aware that, if Soviet justice, having condemned Trotsky for treason, decided to impose its usual penalty for that crime, nothing that Trotsky could do would prevent its being carried out. But that was Trotsky's concern. Belonging then to a political group allied to Trotsky's Fourth International, I accepted the whole responsibility of promoting a legal asylum for Trotsky in Mexico. To this purpose I asked for an audience with the President of the Republic, Lazaro Cardenas. Cardenas received me cordially, listened to, and granted my appeal. Thus Trotsky obtained his visa.

At the time of Trotsky's arrival in Mexico in December, 1936, I was ill, and I asked Frida to welcome him and Madame Trotsky at the dock. Frida detested Trotsky's politics but, desiring to please me, she not only greeted the Trotskys as they landed, but invited them to stay at her family's house in Coyoacan, a forty-five-minute drive from my studio in San Angel, where Frida and I were living.

In appreciation, Trotsky wrote an article, published in the August-September, 1938 number of the Partisan Review, which contained the highest kind of praise for my work.

"Do you wish to see with your own eyes the hidden springs of the social revolution?" Trotsky wrote. "Look at the frescoes of Rivera. Do you wish to know what revolutionary art is like? Look at the frescoes of Rivera.

"Come a little closer and you will see, clearly enough, gashes and spots made by the vandals ... These cuts and gashes give even greater life to the frescoes. You have before you, not simply a 'painting,' an object of esthetic contemplation, but a living part of the class struggle. And it is at the same time a masterpiece!"

Trotsky went on to condemn the Stalin regime for having me expelled from the Mexican Communist Party and for having refused to let me paint frescoes on the walls of Soviet buildings.

By 1940, however, the political differences between Trotsky and myself had made any amicable relationship impossible. At our last meeting that year, Trotsky became so infuriated with me that he ordered me out of his house. Immediately before, he had remarked that he could not understand, judging by my politics, why I was not one of Stalin's best friends. In saying this, he implied that he suspected me of being a secret henchman of Stalin. The police followed the same line of reasoning in their attempt to implicate me in the attack on Trotsky's home.

The Mexican authorities had their own reasons for wishing to pin something on me. Not long before I had embarrassed them by an expose of apparent collusion with the Nazis. Late in 1939, a German liner, the Columbus, flanked by two smaller vessels, had dropped anchor in Mexican waters. Having learned that the Columbus was being used as a ship of war, I published a demand that I be allowed to search it, accompanied by representatives from the Mexican Army, the marines, and the police, as well as the British and French legations (the United States was not yet at war with Germany). I declared my readiness to go to jail and stand trial on whatever charges might be brought against me if my information was disproved.

My information, I wrote, had come from a trustworthy man of authority who had assured me that his facts were entirely accurate, and I had decided to risk personal danger to do what I felt was my civic obligation.

According to my informant, the swimming pool of the liner was being used as a fuel tank and cargo hold for servicing submarines. Beneath the pool was an apparatus by which the submarines could take on the supplies while submerged, thus minimizing the possibility of detection. Four eight-inch guns were concealed along the shaft of the propeller together with the equipment required to mount them. The Columbus could thus be converted into an auxiliary cruiser on short notice. Within the bulkhead walls, along the sides of the ship, were ammunition stores ample for a four-month campaign. Of the two smaller vessels, one was stocked with fuel and lubricants, the other with food and medical supplies.

In conclusion, I declared that, if the government did not authorize the search I requested, it could reasonably be assumed to be permitting Germany to use a Mexican port as a submarine base.

My article was printed in Hoy in mid-December, 1939. On the same day the magazine came out, the newspapers Novedades, El Graphico, and La Prensa summarized my charges. I waited at my studio all day to see what might happen, but nobody showed up.

At four o'clock that afternoon, the Columbus, without being challenged by any Mexican authority, suddenly weighed anchor and, with its two satellite vessels, headed out to sea. About forty-eight hours later, on December 19, 1939, all three ships were blown up by their crews to avoid capture by alerted British destroyers which had sighted them in Bahaman waters.

Soon after the war began, the pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic elements in Mexico, disguised, as was then fashionable, in the garb of nationalism, began to attack me. Infuriated by my action in the Columbus affair, these vermin now organized a full-scale campaign of character assassination, They even printed leaflets calling me a traitor and an agent of the Jews. One of these, following Gestapo models, contributed two rabbis to my geneaology, a grandfather from Poland and a great-grandfather from Russia. This handout was being circulated at the time the police occupied my studio.

During my self-imposed exile, I prepared statements explaining why, although I was not guilty of the attack on Trotsky's house, I refused to present myself to the police. My reasons were those I have given above. Instead of helping my situation, however, my statements so aggravated it that two loyal friends of mine, high officials in the Cardenas government, came to Frida and told her that it was vital to my safety that they see me. Convinced that they were speaking the truth, Frida, who, besides Paulette, was the only person who knew its location, led them to my hideout. There they informed me of measures that were being taken against me and then presented me with a passport already prepared for entry into the United States. I realized that they had devoted much time and effort, at great personal risk, to arrange for my escape. Accepting their advice and the passport, I quietly slipped out of Mexico and headed for San Francisco.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:37 am

THE ENORMOUS NECKTIE

SAN FRANCISCO was a city which I knew and liked. As it happened, I had recently been invited by my old friend Timothy Pflueger to participate in an "Art in Action" exhibit at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in the spring of 1940. Pflueger, the chief architect of the exposition, had arranged that the mural I painted there should afterwards be placed in the new City College of San Francisco, which he had also designed.

Shortly before the Trotsky attack, Pflueger had made a quick trip to Mexico to discuss the mural with me, and we had decided upon the theme of Pan-American unity, in which I have always believed with all my heart.

I arrived in San Francisco by plane and was met at the airport by Pflueger and Albert Bender. They drove me to a hotel located high up on Russian Hill.

Along the way Pflueger told me about the marvelous location of this hotel, another of his creations. From its roof garden, one had a view of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and much of the changing landscape of Marin County. I could not help but find inspiration, he said, in that marvelous vista.

On reaching the hotel, we were greeted by the manager, who personally accompanied us to my rooms, a gesture signifying his participation in my welcome. If he had stayed with us, we might have been spared what followed. But he left, and Pflueger, Bender, and I made ready to see the roof garden. As soon as we entered the elevator, however, we found ourselves in an impasse. The elevator boy refused to take us up because, as he politely explained, I wasn't wearing a necktie. After an absence of ten years, I had forgotten about the American urban mentality. Pflueger protested violently: he was the architect of the building and therefore due special consideration. But nothing availed. To every argument and appeal, the dutiful elevator boy answered that he had been given strict orders that no one, regardless of who he was, was to be allowed to enter the roof garden without a necktie.

Bender now took over the argument. After trying diplomacy and failing, he summoned up all his authority. The elevator boy conceded Bender's right to classify himself as one of the most influential men of the city. But instructions were instructions. Nothing could break through the battlements of the operator's little mind. I hope, when war was declared, he was given the rank of at least brigadier general.

Finally admitting defeat, we returned to my room. I rummaged through all my belongings without finding a single tie. My hurried departure from Mexico had not permitted thought of sartorial niceties. The more we talked about it, the more tired I felt of the whole silly business. Seeking to put an end to it, I asked Pflueger whether we couldn't leave this scenic palace of his and go to some other place where my open-necked shirt wouldn't offend. Bender, however, refused to give up. He summoned the manager, who in turn notified the director and two other hotel executives. All four solemnly filed into my room, anxious to have me forget the unpleasantness. They explained that they had issued the directive against tielessness primarily to keep the roof garden from being invaded by an undesirable younger set of open-collared youths and their half-clad dates whose behavior, as well as dress, did not accord with the amenities traditional to San Francisco.

The executive suggested that they all personally escort us to the roof garden, and to propitiate me, they offered to fire the elevator boy. I, however, knowing that he had merely been following the instructions of his superiors in order to keep his job, defended him. The upshot of the matter was that we dispensed with the wonderful view from the roof garden. Shortly afterward, I left the hotel.

A few days later, comfortably settled in a place more congenial to me, a small apartment on Telegraph Hill, I received a gift-wrapped package from Bender. Inside was a large assortment of neckties -- appreciated, but arrived too late to undo what had happened. I kept the ties, however, and used them for "formal" occasions, which I have never been able entirely to avoid.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:37 am

A VISIT WITH CHARLIE CHAPLIN

THE WEEKEND of this first week in San Francisco, I was invited to Los Angeles, to the home of the Charlie Chaplins. My hostess was my old friend, then Chaplin's wife, Paulette Goddard. I was elated not only to see Paulette again but to meet Charlie, of whose work I had been a fanatical admirer for years.

I had seen Chaplin's earliest films in Paris. On first watching them flicker across the screen, I had felt that I was beholding not only one of the world's greatest actors but also one of the greatest writers of tragicomedy since Shakespeare. In Chaplin's work, however, the acting and writing arts were so completely fused that the wordless poetry would have been meaningless without his sublimely eloquent presentation.

Many artists and writers of Paris were as enthusiastic about Chaplin as I. Ilya Ehrenburg, Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and Andre Breton, to name a few, had belonged to the Chaplin claque. With the master of masters, Picasso, at our head, we had formed a club called The Admirers of Charlie Chaplin. Charlie was greatly pleased when I told him, for the first time, of this tribute from the leading painters and poets of Paris.

On the day I arrived, Chaplin and I talked together all morning and all through lunch. As I had expected, I found him an intelligent, sincere, and knowledgeable artist. In the afternoon, other guests arrived, including some of the leading lights of the film world. Among them were Aldous Huxley and my old friends Dolores Del Rio and Orson Welles.

Later I met Dolores and Orson at a party given in their honor as Hollywood's romantic couple of the year. According to a Hollywood custom, they were asked to tell what had made them fall in love with each other. Orson went into a long, impromptu rhapsody about the virtues and qualities of Dolores, but Dolores was reluctant to answer. After much coaxing, she admitted that she had fallen in love with Orson mainly because he so closely resembled me when I was his age.

Amusingly, before Dolores' confession, Orson had expressed a high regard for my work. Immediately after that, he lost all interest in my paintings and became an ardent champion of Siqueiros instead. Dolores and I laugh whenever we recall this story.
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