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 1:32 am


From Moscow I went to Hamburg, where I embarked for Mexico. On the second morning out of that port, I was surprised and delighted to meet my friend David Alfaro Siqueiros, with his first wife, Gracielo Amador. They had boarded the ship the night before from France. The three of us enjoyed a warm reunion.

Throughout this return crossing, the weather was ideal, and I took advantage of it to complete some canvases and water colors I had started in the Soviet Union.

Enroute, there occurred an incident of perhaps only a minute's duration which had a profound effect upon me. Gracielo, Siqueiros, and I were on deck watching a brilliant sunset. A glaring red ball suddenly bounded over the horizon of the sea and came to rest in a greenish-white bank of clouds. A few seconds afterwards another sphere shot into our view, then still another.

Siqueiros cried, "Look, Gracita! Look, Diego! Those things are really small balls. If we could get them in our hands, we could play with them. Real balls, I tell you!"

At that moment the conception of the National Palace stairway mural, which I had begun to plan in 1922, flashed to completion in my mind so clearly that immediately upon my arrival in Mexico, I sketched it as easily as if I were copying paintings I had already done.

The National Palace stairway rises broadly and majestically from a wide inner court, then forks at the first flight to right and left. For the wall of the right staircase, I envisioned Mexico before the conquest: its popular arts, crafts, and legends; its temples, palaces, sacrifices, and gods. On the great six-arched central wall, I would paint the entire history of Mexico from the Conquest through the Mexican Revolution. At the triangular base, I would represent the cruelties of Spanish rule, and above that, the many struggles of my people for independence, culminating in the outer arches, in the lost war with the northern invaders, and the final victory over the French. The four central arches would show aspects of the Revolution against Diaz and its reverberations in the strife-torn years of Madero, Huerta, Carranza, Obregon, down to the ugly present of Plutarco Calles.

On the wall of the right staircase, I would paint the present and the future. Naturally, I was less certain of the course to which the present tended than of the past. I would consume much time circling backward to find the right point from which the future could be projected until, after six years, my preliminary perspectives would be sharpened by the destruction of my mural in Rockefeller Center.

During this third sea voyage to my homeland, I became sure of my future artistic medium. I also spent time clarifying my impressions of my sojourn in Russia. I began to understand the opposition of the Soviet painters toward me as a working painter in their country. And that helped me to understand better my place as a Mexican painter in mine.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:32 am

H. P.

Shortly after my return home in 1928, I was given a rather unusual and enjoyable commission: to design scenes, props, and costumes for a ballet titled "H. P." (the abbreviation for horse power). I had been recommended for the job by the composer Carlos Chavez, my association with whom was to have a ludicrous and unhappy ending several years later. My designs for "H. P." included a cocoanut tree, a bag of money, horse power, downtown New York, a girl and boy from Tijuana, a banana, an American girl, a pineapple, sailors, sugar cane, a captain, tobacco, and cotton -- quite a lot, in fact. "H. P." was first performed in 1932 at the Philadelphia Academy of Music with Leopold Stokowski conducting. Afterwards I did an album of the costumes in color, which was purchased by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and donated by her to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:33 am


Toward the end of 1928, the personal lawyer of President Calles paid me a visit in my home, No. 8 Tampico Street. He had come to urge me to end my ardent personal campaign on behalf of the revolutionary general and guerilla fighter Rodriguez Triana. Triana, a foe of Calles, was an outstanding contender for leadership of the peasants' and workers' bloc, sponsored by the Communist Party.

When Calles' representative had finished expounding his client's wishes, I told him quite calmly that I would support any political candidate I believed in.

"Think about it carefully, Diego," he said. "If you don't curtail your activities, the Old Man is likely to give the order to stretch your throat."

I answered, trying to conceal my anger, "All right, tell Calles I know he has plenty of ropes and lots of hangmen. But tell him also that he's mistaken if he thinks I can be frightened off. Don't forget to report what else I'm going to tell you, either. I shall continue to do what I wish until the Communist Party itself throws me out for using the Party to make myself dictator of Mexico. I mention this possibility because I long ago asked for the privilege of leading the first uprising against Calles."

I suppose my outright defiance was more than the poor man had expected. He made a hurried exit. I was not hanged; I am still living and painting.

As for Calles, he was later kicked out of power by my good friend Lazaro Cardenas, recent President of Mexico. With appropriate civilian and military rites, he long ago descended into hell, where his smoldering body has an honor guard of reactionaries, his former enemies when he pretended to be a revolutionary.

Throughout the following year, I was intensely involved in Party activities, the most memorable of which was in connection with the defense of Tina Modotti, who was placed on trial for the murder of Julio Mella. During this hectic period, I nevertheless managed to paint some frescoes in the Ministry of Health building, about which I shall speak first.

These panels, done in the building's Assembly Hall and covering over 350 square feet of wall and ceiling, comprised six large female nudes symbolizing Purity, Strength, Knowledge, Life, Moderation, and Health itself.

Purity sat on the ground near a stream of clear water flowing over her hand. On the ceiling above her, looking downward, flew Life. Strength rested on the ground, full-bosomed, with sturdy thighs and powerful hands. Knowledge sat with her feet doubled under her, dreamily gazing at an open blossom in her hand. Near her and almost touching her face, was a snake coiled around a tree. Health was a seated figure with hands raised. Moderation was a tall, big-boned woman lying down, her eyes closed. In her hand she gripped a snake below the head from which darted its forked tongue; its body was clasped between her knees.

Afterwards I designed four stained-glass windows for this same building. I tried, by blending the tints of colored glass, to create as plastic an effect as possible. To this end, I also used pieces of glass cut into curved segments to give the complete composition a symmetry of mobile lines.

Julio Mella was a Cuban revolutionary leader who had fled the dictatorship of President Gerardo Machado. Mella had come to Mexico seeking refuge, and here he had met Tina Modotti, an excellent painter and photographer. I had been friendly with Tina before my trip to Russia; in fact, this friendship had been the final cause of Lupe's divorcing me.

Long before my return to Mexico, Tina and Mella had become lovers.

In 1929, Julio Mella was assassinated, on President Machado's orders.

The Mexican government, however, chose not to see a political motive in the crime. It took the position that the murder was a crime of passion and indicted Tina, whose political views were offensive to the regime, as the murderess. The government's case was based solely on the fact that Tina had been Mella's most recent mistress. From this it deduced that Tina had tired of Mella, and had decided to bring their affair to an end by killing him.

Because the case was being used to give a bad name to the Communist Party, its leadership took up Tina's defense. It commissioned me to dig up the true facts behind Mella's murder. With the assistance of friends, I was able to establish that the assassin of Julio Mella had been a Cuban gunman in the pay of the Machado government, sent by the chief of its secret service explicitly to perform the crime. My evidence, presented in court, ripped apart the net of speculations in which the prosecution had hoped to entrap Tina. The detective in charge of the investigation was forced to resign. And the Cuban government's involvement in the intrigue was officially recognized in an order obliging the Cuban Ambassador to leave the country for one year.

This was my last Party assignment. Before the year was over, I was to be expelled from the Party.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:33 am


As an artist I have always tried to be faithful to my vision of life, and I have frequently been in conflict with those who wanted me to paint not what I saw but what they wished me to see.

However, the immediate cause of my expulsion from the Communist Party was not a painting that I had done, but one I had failed to do.

Toward the end of 1929, I was at work on one of the central arches of the National Palace stairway. My original sketch had shown a figure representing the Revolutionary Fatherland, holding a peasant in one arm and a worker in the other. In the course of the actual painting, I altered certain details which, in turn, made my symbolic representation of Mexico seem not quite right. For the figure of the Fatherland, I substituted a portrait of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a former Governor of Yucatan, who had proved himself a true man of the people.

Because of this change in my plan, charges were brought against me by a committee headed by Joseph Freeman. Of Freeman I will only say that when his time for clarification came, he also failed to satisfy the Party and was thrown out as, in fact, he had always deserved to be.

My alteration in my mural was, of course, only one of a list of points which the Party had collected in my disfavor. Another was my public disapproval of the Party's line regarding labor unions. The Party then favored dividing the unions into Communist and non-Communist ones, but I had maintained that this policy was unwise and that the working class should be kept united in unsegregated associations. A few years after my expulsion, the Party reversed itself and took the line I had been condemned for.

Still another point against me was a statement I had made to the effect that I trusted no one and nothing and never could. My accusers asserted that a good revolutionary must have trust in his fellow men in order to inspire their faith and good will.

However, I think that what brought me most in disfavor with the Party was a view I had aired which was in direct contradiction to an expressed belief of Stalin's. Stalin had asserted that the capitalist countries would not attack Russia but would themselves be converted to communism on realizing its inevitable triumph. I had declared that an attack would come.

Years later, after the Nazi invasion, Stalin realized how wrong he had been. He died, however, without forgiving me for having been right.

On these and other charges, I was declared unworthy of Party membership.

As time went on, my former comrades labeled me a Trotskyite -- a political designation I found wryly amusing. For the Trotskyites had always reviled me as a Stalinist. Even after my expulsion from the Party, they regarded me as a secret agent of Stalin.

Their charges against me went back to World War I, during which, they declared, I had collected diseased lice from dying men and dispersed them among the Italians and Poles from paper bags. Before 1920, according to my Trotskyite biographers, I had been poor and obscure. Then, somehow, I had come into a fortune in gold – of which I made a gift to Stalin. I had once, said these authorities, been married to a distant cousin of Stalin's wife. Later, when I helped Trotsky come to Mexico, they declared it was in order to shadow him and report to Stalin everything Trotsky did.

After Trotsky's assassination, they spread a rumor that Trotsky had previously broken with me out of fear that I would kill him, but that he had made his move too late. All the details of Trotsky's death were so expertly interpreted into evidence against me that sometimes even I almost believed the lie.

For a Communist, there is only one way to relate to the Party -- maintain the Party's line against everything and everybody, never for a moment doubting its correctness. To hold a personal opinion at variance with the Party's line means doubling one's burden. It means that, while continuing to fight the enemies of the revolution, one incurs the enmity of friends to whom the slightest difference of view appears as a betrayal.

This is no criticism of the Party. Had I stayed within the bounds of Party discipline, I would have voted for my own expulsion. Nevertheless, I differed in certain particulars with the Party and its leadership and could not be convinced that I was wrong. I defended my views up to the very moment the Party ousted me. In revoking my membership, the Party was merely carrying out its duty.

I have always believed that one who has been expelled from the Party should be allowed to seek re-admittance if he has reasonable grounds for re-entering. His expulsion from the Party does not necessarily mean a fundamental change in his thinking.

After 1929, I continued to regard myself as a Communist in spite of my expulsion. Three times I applied for reinstatement in the Party. The first time my application was ignored. The second time it was weighed, and I was advised to try again in another year. I was encouraged to reapply a third time, also, by an opinion voiced by certain Party members that I might be useful to the Party.

This third time I clearly set forth my attitude towards the Party in the documents of my application, which were published. I emphasized that my readmittance would encourage Party intellectuals who stood for free, progressive expression and attract new members to the Party who were opposed to excessive discipline. For a long time there was no answer -- neither acceptance nor rejection. I kept on hoping that my application would finally be approved and at last, in 1955, I received word that it had been.

I believe that my readmittance into the Party was directly related to the new basis of leadership in the Communist Party in Russia. Now that absolute one-man leadership has been done away with, anyone sincerely interested in working for Communist objectives is welcomed. The personal prejudices of a head man no longer have weight. This is as it should be.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:33 am


I WENT ON with my mural in the National Palace, and by the time I completed the arches, I judged it the finest thing I had ever done. I am still proud of this stairway mural. It is not for me, of course, to forecast the verdict of future times. Yet, like it or not, no one can deny that it represented a new approach to mural painting.

The murals before it had all set isolated figures and groups of figures against large and quiet backgrounds. In this mural, I borrowed the architectonic movement of the stairway itself and related it to the dynamic upward ascent of the Revolution. Each personage in the mural was dialectically connected with his neighbors, in accordance with his role in history. Nothing was solitary; nothing was irrelevant. My. National Palace mural is the only plastic poem I know of which embodies the whole history of a people in its composition.

It is also the work which has consumed most of my time. I might leave it to paint other murals, but I kept returning to it -- the last time in 1955 -- to make additions and changes. Because all its details are organically related, there are few alterations I can make that do not affect neighboring details. To my friends it has become a joke to say, "Have you heard the news? Diego has finished painting the stairway.”

In 1930, I was called away from my work in the National Palace by Dwight W. Morrow, United States Ambassador to Mexico, to paint a wall of the Palace of Cortes at Cuernavaca, in the State of Morelos. I was given complete freedom of choice as to subject matter and a fee of 30,000 pesos (about $12,000) from which, however, I had to pay my assistants and buy my own materials and equipment.

I chose to do scenes from the history of the region in sixteen consecutive panels, beginning with the Spanish conquest. The episodes included the seizure of Cuernavaca by the Spaniards, the building of the palace by the conqueror, and the establishment of the sugar refineries. The concluding episode was the peasant revolt led by Zapata. In the panels depicting the horrors of the Spanish conquest, I portrayed the inhuman role of the old, dictatorial Church. I took care to authenticate every detail by exact research, because I wanted to leave no opening for anyone to try to discredit the murals as a whole by the charge that any detail was a fabrication. In some of the panels my hero was a priest, the brave and incorruptible Miguel Hidalgo, who had not hesitated to defy the Church in his loyalty to the people and to truth.

The panels were done on all three walls of an outer colonnade. Under the main panels I experimented with a pseudo bas-relief trim. I gave myself the task of integrating the movement of the figures with the rhythm of the architecture, with the movement of history in time and space, and with the movement of the landscape ascending from the valleys to the mountains. I was very happy with the outcome.

My commission from Morrow had been arranged by my friend the American architect William Spratling. Spratling had come to live in Mexico and was seeking some way of earning his livelihood in my country. I expected him to accept the customary agent's commission but he would not. Aware of his needs, I used an indirect means to make the payment. I asked him to buy me a house in Tasco, and then I signed the property over to him as a gift.

Of the 23,000 pesos remaining to me after the purchase of the house, I spent 8,000 on the restoration of the colonnade, which was literally falling down. That left me 15,000 pesos on which to live, pay my assistants, and buy supplies during the seven months it took to do the murals. When the work was finished, I was flat broke.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:33 am


Just before I went to Cuernavaca, there occurred one of the happiest events in my life. I was at work on one of the uppermost frescoes of the Ministry of Education building one day, when I heard a girl shouting up to me, “Diego, please come down from there! I have something important to discuss with you!”

I turned my head and looked down from my scaffold.

On the ground beneath me stood a girl of about eighteen. She had a fine nervous body, topped by a delicate face. Her hair was long; dark and thick eyebrows met above her nose. They seemed like the wings of a blackbird, their black arches framing two extraordinary brown eyes.

When I climbed down, she said, “I didn’t come here for fun. I have to work to earn my livelihood. I have done some paintings which I want you to look over professionally. I want an absolutely straightforward opinion, because I cannot afford to go on just to appease my vanity. I want you to tell me whether you think I can become a good enough artist to make it worth my while to go on. I’ve brought three of my paintings here. Will you come and look at them?”

“Yes,” I said, and followed her to a cubicle under a stairway where she had left her paintings. She turned each of them, leaning against the wall, to face me. They were all three portraits of women. As I looked at them, one by one, I was immediately impressed. The canvases revealed an unusual energy of expression, precise delineation of character, and true severity. They showed none of the tricks in the name of originality that usually mark the work of ambitious beginners. They had a fundamental plastic honesty, and an artistic personality of their own. They communicated a vital sensuality, complemented by a merciless yet sensitive power of observation. It was obvious to me that this girl was an authentic artist.

She undoubtedly noticed the enthusiasm in my face, for before I could say anything, she admonished me in a harshly defensive tone, “I have not come to you looking for compliments. I want the criticism of a serious man. I’m neither an art lover nor an amateur. I’m simply a girl who must work for her living.”

I felt deeply moved by admiration for this girl. I had to restrain myself from praising her as much as I wanted to. Yet I could not be completely insincere. I was puzzled by her attitude. Why, I asked her, didn’t she trust my judgment? Hadn’t she come herself to ask for it?

“The trouble is,” she replied, “that some of your good friends have advised me not to put too much stock in what you say. They say that if it’s a girl who asks your opinion and she’s not an absolute horror, you are ready to gush all over her. Well, I want you to tell me only one thing. Do you actually believe that I should continue to paint, or should I turn to some other sort of work?”

“In my opinion, no matter how difficult it is for you, you must continue to paint,” I answered at once.

“Then I’ll follow your advice. Now I’d like to ask you one more favor. I’ve done other paintings which I’d like you to see. Since you don’t work on Sundays, could you come to my place next Sunday to see them? I live in Coyoacan, Avenida Londres, 126. My name is Frida Kahlo.”

The moment I heard her name, I remembered that my friend Lombardo Toledano, while Director of the National Preparatory School, had complained to me about the intractability of a girl of that name. She was the leader, he said, of a band of juvenile delinquents who raised such uproars in the school that Toledano had considered quitting his job on account of them. I recalled him once pointing her out to me after depositing her in the principal’s office for a reprimand. Then another image popped into my mind, that of the twelve-year-old girl who had defied Lupe, seven years before, in the auditorium of the school where I had been painting murals.

I said, “But you are …”

She stopped me quickly, almost putting her hand on my mouth in her anxiety. Her eyes acquired a devilish brilliancy.

Threateningly, she said, “Yes, so what? I was the girl in the auditorium, but that has absolutely nothing to do with now. You still want to come Sunday?”

I had great difficulty not answering, "More than ever!" But if I showed my excitement she might not let me come at all. So I only answered, "Yes."

Then, after refusing my help in carrying her paintings, Frida departed, the big canvases jiggling under her arms.

Next Sunday found me in Coyoaccin looking for Avenida Londres, 126. When I knocked on the door, I heard someone over my head, whistling "The International." In the top of a high tree, I saw Frida in overalls, starting to climb down. Laughing gaily, she took my hand and ushered me through the house, which seemed to be empty, and into her room. Then she paraded all her paintings before me. These, her room, her sparkling presence, filled me with a wonderful joy.

I did not know it then, but Frida had already become the most important fact in my life. And she would continue to be, up to the moment she died, twenty-seven years later.

A few days after this visit to Frida's home, I kissed her for the first time. When I had completed my work in the Education building, I began courting her in earnest. Although she was but eighteen and I more than twice her age, neither of us felt the least bit awkward. Her family, too, seemed to accept what was happening.

One day her father, Don Guillermo Kahlo, who was an excellent photographer, took me aside.

"I see you're interested in my daughter, eh?" he said.

"Yes," I replied. "Otherwise I would not be coming all the way out to Coyoacan to see her."

"She is a devil," he said.

"Well, I've warned you," he said, and he left.

Soon after, we were married in a civil ceremony. The wedding was performed in the town's ancient city hall by the Mayor of Coyoacan, a prominent pulque dealer. At first the mayor wanted to marry us in the meeting room of the Municipal Council. "This merger is an historical event, he argued. The Kahlos, however, persuaded him that a legislative chamber was not a fitting place for a wedding.

Our witnesses were Panchito, a hairdresser, Dr. Coronado, a homeopathic doctor (who examined and dispensed medicines to the wealthy for one peso and charged poor patients nothing), and old Judge Mondragon of Coyoacan. The judge, a heavy, bearded man, had been a schoolmate of mine in the Fine Arts School.

In the middle of the service, Don Guillermo Kahlo got up and declared, "Gentlemen, is it not true that we're play-acting?" Frida's father found our marriage very amusing.

At the wedding party afterwards, Lupe turned up as one of the guests. Jealous as always, she made a scene, berated Frida, and then stamped out of the house.

Years later, Lupe came to know Frida and to like her very much.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:34 am


In 1926, through the American sculptor Ralph Stackpole, whom I had known in Paris and Mexico City, I received an invitation from William Gerstle, President of the San Francisco Art Commission, to paint a wall in the California School of Fine Arts. At that time I was so immersed in my work in the Education building and in the chapel of the Agricultural College at Chapingo, that I could not so much as think of painting anywhere else.

Now, however, Stackpole secured for me a second commission (the first had never been revoked) to do a mural in the new San Francisco Stock Exchange, which he and other artists were decorating under the supervision of its architect, Timothy Pflueger. Pflueger offered me $2,500 which, together with $1,500 that Gerstle had promised for my work in the Fine Arts School, came to $4,000 -- the most munificent sum I had ever been offered to paint walls.

I was enormously excited. This would be a crucial test of my mural techniques. Unlike Mexico, the United States was a truly industrial country such as I had originally envisioned as the ideal place for modern mural art.

When I applied for admission into the United States, I ran into considerable difficulty because of my political affiliations. However, mainly through the unflagging efforts of Albert Bender, a prominent San Francisco art patron and collector, I finally obtained a visa, and in November, 1930, Frida and I embarked for the United States.

Some time before our journey, in fact, even before we were married, Frida told me she had dreamed for years about going to San Francisco. On the night before Pflueger's invitation arrived, Frida dreamed that she was waving good-bye to her family, on her way to this "City of the World," as she called San Francisco.

Frida and I, already engaged, were strolling in the twilight as she told me about this dream. We paused momentarily on a street corner just as the electric street lights of Coyoacan began to pop on. On a sudden impulse, I stooped to kiss her. As our lips touched the light nearest us went off and came on again when our lips parted. I was amused but said nothing to Frida. We walked on. A few minutes later I stooped under another light and a second kiss put out the second light. This time Frida noticed what had happened, remarked about it, and became a little uneasy. Then, self-consciously, we repeated the experiment three times more with the same mysterious result.

Many months later, after we had returned from the United States and we were no longer thought of as newlyweds, we recalled the phenomenon. We happened to be in the very room where Frida had been born. Half joking, half in earnest, we started to close all the windows and doors. Feeling experimentally gay, we turned on one electric light. Then, standing directly below the blazing bulb, we enjoyed a long kiss. Uncannily, the bulb blinked on and off five times. We looked at each other, simultaneously bursting into hilarious laughter.

Enroute to San Francisco, Frida surprised me with a gift of a portrait of herself which she had recently completed. Its background was an unfamiliar city skyline. Frida made no attempt to explain the painting. When we arrived in San Francisco, I was almost frightened to realize that her imagined city was the very one we were now seeing for the first time.

We were welcomed magnificently by the people of San Francisco and were feted at parties, dinners, and receptions. I received assignments to lecture at handsome fees. Stackpole put his studio at my disposal, and from the beginning, I worked on my plans with vigor and spontaneity.

Pflueger's Stock Exchange Building was in the tradition of all such establishments in the United States -- that embodied in the Federal Reserve Building. Yet, within this limitation, he had done his job in a clean, modern manner. What was most original in his concept, however, was the use of associated arts. He had pressed for and been granted permission to call in the foremost contemporary artists and sculptors to collaborate with him. The group he gathered about him achieved a remarkable success in expressing their individual vision of American society, in a harmony which included the architectonics of the building.

The wall I was to cover flanked an interior staircase connecting the two stories of the Exchange's Luncheon Club. It was thirty feet high. In the central portion of the mural, I painted a colossal figure of a woman representing California. The almost classically beautiful tennis champion Helen Wills Moody served as my model. In portraying her, I made no attempt to formalize her features but left them recognizably hers. Soon a cry was heard: California was an abstraction and should not be an identifiable likeness of anybody. To this I replied that California was known abroad mainly because of Helen Wills Moody; that she seemed to represent California better than anyone I knew -- she was intelligent, young, energetic, and beautiful; and that, finally, if I thought her the best model, I had the right to use her. While the protest spent itself, I painted around her figure the rich and varied resources of the state: on her left, the lush agriculture, its workers and heroes; on her right, industry, its buildings and machines, and representative working men and women. As a symbol of the future I showed a young California boy facing the sky with a model airplane in his hands.

On the ceiling above the wall, I painted a female nude in billowing clouds, symbolizing the fertility of the earth as well as the natural interconnection of agriculture and industry.

I worked on this mural with such complete absorption that when I was finished I was literally exhausted. I accepted an invitation from Mrs. Sigmund Stern, an art patron who lived in Atherton, to rest in her home, and there Frida and I stayed for a time. To keep in practice, I painted a pastoral mural on our hostess' living-room wall.

Back in San Francisco, I found letters from the President of Mexico, Ortiz Rubio, demanding that I return at once to continue work in the National Palace as required by my government contract. Rubio, a former engineer and general, who had recently replaced the Provisional President, Emilio Portes Gil, had a passion for precision and order. William Gerstle, however, who had waited so long for me to execute my mural in the California School of Fine Arts, was equally anxious not to have me suddenly plucked out of his hands. There were visits to officials, exchanges of cables, and in the end, Gerstle received permission for me to stay for as long as was required to carry out the commission.

The wall offered me at the School of Fine Arts was a small one of only 120 square feet, not at all suitable to my purpose, which was to present a dynamic concerto of construction -- technicians, planners, and artists working together to create a modern building. Taking advantage of the vague stipulation as to the length of time I might remain in San Francisco, I chose another wall, ten times as big. It was here that I showed how a mural is actually painted: the tiered scaffold, the assistants plastering, sketching, and painting; myself resting at midpoint; and the actual mural subject, a worker whose hand is turning a valve so placed as to seem part of a mechanism of the building.

Since I was facing and leaning toward my work, the portrait of myself was a rear view with my buttocks protruding over the edge of the scaffold. Some persons took this as a deliberate expression of contempt for my American hosts and raised a clamor. However, I insisted that the painting meant nothing else than what it pictured. I would never think of insulting the people of a city I had come to love and in which I had been continuously happy. Moreover, I asked for not a cent more for painting this wall, measuring ten times the space, than for the wall specified in the original contract.*

While working in California, I met William Valentiner and Edgar Richardson of the Detroit Institute of Arts. I mentioned a desire which I had to paint a series of murals about the industries of the United States, a series that would constitute a new kind of plastic poem, depicting in color and form the story of each industry and its division of labor. Dr. Valentiner was keenly interested, considering my idea a potential base for a new school of modern art in America, as related to the social structure of American life as the art of the Middle Ages had been related to medieval society.

The longer Valentiner and I talked, the more our mutual enthusiasm grew. But Valentiner was not in a position to make any offers on his own. And it was on a note of suspended exhilaration that we parted when he returned to Detroit.

Before my stay in San Francisco was over, however. I received a happy letter from him telling me that my artistic dream was to become a reality in Detroit. The city's Art Commission, of which Edsel Ford was chairman, had agreed to let me paint subjects of my own choosing on the walls of the inner garden courtyard of the Detroit Institute of Arts.



* This mural was subsequently covered over by a false wall, which was removed, and the mural rededicated, after Rivera's death. -- G.M.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:34 am


WHILE I WAS AWAY in San Francisco, I had left two of my assistants, the American painter Ione Robinson and the Russian painter Arnautov, to continue my work in the National Palace. They had painted several of the arches in the central stairway, and also the sky in a panel adjacent to one I had completed before my departure. They had imitated my style, yet their work looked so different to me from what I did with my own hands, that I could not let it stand. I was obliged to scratch out every stroke of their painting.

Where I had expected to find a gain, I met with a loss. But having been out of the country for about a year, the return to Mexico again had a revitalizing effect upon me. I started painting with the same unbounded exuberance I had felt while working on the Ministry of Education murals. Sometimes I kept going for twenty-four hours without a break. I was sustained by an ethereal drunkenness, a pure joy which the act of painting gave me. All my materials having previously been prepared, I did the entire central panel, sixty-five feet in width and forty feet high, in three and a half months!

One day, while at work on my scaffold, I was visited by the New York art dealer Frances Flynn Paine. As a Director of the newly formed Mexican Arts Association, she had come to offer me a one-man show in the New York Museum of Modern Art. To every modern artist, this is the pinnacle of professional success. As soon as I had completed the work presently required in the National Palace, I began to prepare for this show. At the same time, with the money I had earned in California, I started building my house in San Angel.

Accompanied by Mrs. Paine, Frida and I sailed for New York on the Morro Castle early in November, 1931. The captain graciously provided me with temporary studio facilities enroute; and, upon our arrival, Mrs. Paine secured for me a spacious studio gallery right in the Museum building, where I began at once to prepare seven movable frescoes -- movable because the Museum was then in temporary quarters, a floor of the Heckscher Building. Four of these panels were adaptations of details from my Mexican murals. The remaining three were representations of subjects I observed in the city.

"Electric Welding" showed a group of workers welding a big boiler in one of the power and light plants of the General Electric Company. "Pneumatic Drilling" depicted laborers drilling through the rock ledge of Manhattan preparatory to the construction of Rockefeller Center. The most ambitious of these frescoes represented various strata of life in New York during the Great Depression. At the top loomed skyscrapers like mausoleums reaching up into the cold night. Underneath them were people going home, miserably crushed together in the subway trains. In the center was a wharf used by homeless unemployed as their dormitory, with a muscular cop standing guard. In the lower part of the panel, I showed another side of this society: a steel-grilled safety deposit vault in which a lady was depositing her jewels while other persons waited their turn to enter the sanctum. At the bottom of the panel were networks of subway tunnels, water pipes, electric conduits, and sewage pipes. A journalist who came to report the show, which opened on December 23rd, baptized this fresco "Frozen Assets," a name which Mrs. Paine, now my agent, at once adopted for it.

The show consisted of 150 pieces, including oils, pastels, water colors, and black and whites, in addition to the seven frescoes. It represented all my periods. Although there was embarrassment in some quarters about the frankness with which I represented the current economic crisis in "Frozen Assets," my exhibition was well received.

It failed, however, to fulfill one of my hopes for the show -- to give American museum directors and architects a grasp of the character and value of mural painting. A true appreciation of the mural may be long in coming to the United States, the chief obstacle being the essentially temporary character of its architecture, combined with the North American preference for commodities of easy manipulation, which results in the creation of expensive screen-printed wallpaper rather than wall painting of real artistic value. The movable panels which I did for the show gave a fairly good idea of my technique but not of the true uses of the medium.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:34 am


EARLY in 1932 Frida and I went by train to Detroit. We were met at the depot by a small welcoming party consisting officially of Dr. Valentiner and Mr. Burroughs, the Head Curator and Secretary of the Arts Institute. The reception was swelled by an unexpected contingent of Mexicans living in Detroit, led by the Mexican Consul. These well-wishers escorted Frida and me to lodgings reserved for us in the Brevoort Hotel, facing the Institute. After getting settled, we were introduced to Edsel Ford and the other members of the Art Commission.

Ford set only one condition: that in representing the industry of Detroit, I should not limit myself to steel and automobiles but take in chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which were also important in the economy of the city. He wanted to have a full tableau of the industrial life of Detroit. He said good-humoredly that he wished to avoid any impression of partiality toward the industry served by his father and himself.

After a comprehensive survey of the city's plants and factories, I made preliminary sketches which I showed to Edsel Ford. Then I asked him for a concession. My commission called for frescoes on two walls, each fifty square yards, which I was to paint for the sum of $10,000. I could not possibly carry out my designs in this space. I therefore requested the space of all the four walls of the garden. Ford, who was taken with my preliminary sketches, not only acceded to my wish but raised my fee to $25,000.

I spent the two and one-half months between my meeting with the Art Commission and the beginning of my actual mural work in soaking up impressions of the productive activities of the city. I studied industrial scenes by night as well as by day, making literally thousands of sketches of towering blast furnaces, serpentine conveyor belts, impressive scientific laboratories, busy assembling rooms; also of precision instruments, some of them massive yet delicate; and of the men who worked them all. I walked for miles through the immense workshops of the Ford, Chrysler, Edison, Michigan Alkali, and Parke-Davis plants. I was afire with enthusiasm. My childhood passion for mechanical toys had been transmuted to a delight in machinery for its own sake and for its meaning to man -- his self-fulfillment and liberation from drudgery and poverty. That is why now I placed the collective hero, man-and-machine, higher than the old traditional heroes of art and legend. I felt that in the society of the future as already, to some extent, that of the present, man-and-machine would be as important as air, water, and the light of the sun.

This was the "philosophy," the state of mind in which I undertook my Detroit frescoes.

Not long after coming to Detroit, I heard of a museum of machinery in Dearborn which had been set up by Henry Ford but which, at that time, had not acquired its present popularity. The well-to-do people of fashionable Grosse Pointe and the Detroit workers as well ignored Greenfield Village, as this museum area was called. Almost nobody had any use for it, and 1 found out about it only through hearing people laugh at "old man Ford" for "wasting" millions on his "pile of scrap iron." These gibes excited my curiosity, and I asked my friends how I could arrange a visit and what was the earliest time I might go.

"Any time you like," they answered, not troubling to conceal their disdain.

I arrived at Greenfield Village six o'clock the following morning, and spent an hour walking around it. At precisely seven o'clock, a marvelous mechanical clock, equipped with a figure hammering on bells, sent peals of music into the bright morning air. An old-fashioned wagon, drawn by three pairs of mules, an apparition out of the eighteenth century, crossed the road where the automobile I had come in was parked. I was startled by this sudden juxtaposition of the past and present. I asked my assistant, Clifford Wight, who had come with me, and our tour guide, to let me visit the museum by myself, if that was permitted. Cliff seemed surprised and may even have taken offense at my request.

The guide, however, answered, "We've been told, sir, to do absolutely everything you wish." With that, he returned to the car with the puzzled Clifford.

The first thing I encountered on entering the museum was the earliest steam engine built in England. As I walked on, marveling at each successive mechanical wonder, I realized that I was witnessing the history of machinery, as if on parade, from its primitive beginnings to the present day, in all its complex and astounding elaborations.

Henry Ford's so-called "pile of scrap iron" was organized not only with scientific clarity but with impeccable, unpretentious good taste. Relics of the times associated with each machine were displayed beside it. To me, Greenfield Village, inside and out, was a visual feast.

While I was inside the model of an early American cabin, a strange thing occurred. I was looking at the furniture, tools, clothing, and yellowed ballad sheets affixed to the walls when suddenly the light began to fade. In a few seconds, I was in total darkness.

As I felt my way along a wall in an attempt to get out, I heard a man's voice say, "Don't you want some light?"

"Yes, certainly I do!" I answered. The light came on at once, but no human being was visible. As I hunted for the source of the voice, I heard it again. "What do you think of my electrical system?"

"Marvelous," I replied, continuing to look about me for the man who had spoken.

"That's fine," the voice said, and then there was silence. Shrugging my shoulders, I continued on my tour, which lasted hours and hours.

At last I began to feel weak. It occurred to me that it was already night, and I probably needed food. I found the car at an exit waiting for me. Alongside it stood a man who introduced himself to me as Henry Ford's secretary. Mr. Ford, he said, realized that I, no less than he, was a very busy man. Nevertheless, he begged me to set aside time the following day to lunch with him in his home. I accepted this invitation warmly. The secretary pointed out Mr. Ford's house to me. It was not far from where we were standing. I was surprised to see that it was much like the homes of the engineers and skilled workers living in Dearborn. There was nothing to set it apart from the other houses in the neighborhood.

I had already begun working in the Arts Institute. And early the following morning, I found a motion-picture cameraman, with all his paraphernalia, waiting for me on the scaffold.

He said, "Mr. Ford instructed me to come here every day while you're working on your murals and take pictures of you in action. I must have each day's shooting ready to be shown to him in his home by evening. He is eager to watch you paint, and since he can't spare the time during the day, he thought of this idea. It will make him feel as if he were actually here."

I told the photographer I was delighted with Mr. Ford's personal interest in my work, and he was welcome to take pictures of me at any time.

Later that day, I kept my luncheon appointment with Henry Ford, whom I found a most charming man, old in years but in other ways very young. Discarding formalities, Ford greeted me with a hearty handshake and then began one of the most intelligent, clever, and lively conversations I have ever enjoyed. This amiable genius radiated a kind of luminous atmosphere.

After a while, he said, "Since you like mechanics so much, I'd like to show you something. Please follow me."

He led me into an amazing kitchen, so highly mechanized there was almost nothing in it to be done by hand. He explained that he believed human sensitivity and intelligence should be reserved for the full enjoyment of food, rather than wasted in its preparation. Standing in Ford's kitchen, I had the odd sensation of being surrounded by a mechanical orchestra.

At table, Ford described the electrical systems in Greenfield Village. Suddenly a bell rang in my head and I looked at him inquiringly. Smiling, he said, "Yes, Diego, that voice you heard yesterday in the cabin was mine. I couldn't resist playing the prank on you, since you seemed to be as fond as I am of those piles of scrap iron. Am I right, boy?" Chuckling, he slapped me good-naturedly on the shoulder.

"From seven in the morning until half past one the next morning -- that's quite a record time for a visitor to stay at a museum," he continued. "It proves that you may be even more interested in mechanics than I am. And you almost have to be a fanatic to compete with me. That's certainly something!" he exclaimed, grinning broad approval of our common bond.

Having eaten lunch, I got up to return to my job. Ford shook hands with me again and said warmly, "Good-bye, Diego, thank you for coming. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed our meeting."

"Good-bye and thank you too, Henry," I responded with equal warmth.

As I rode back to Detroit, a vision of Henry Ford's industrial empire kept passing before my eyes. In my ears, I heard the wonderful symphony which came from his factories where metals were shaped into tools for men's service. It was a new music, waiting for the composer with genius enough to give it communicable form.

I thought of the millions of different men by whose combined labor and thought automobiles were produced, from the miners who dug the iron ore out of the earth to the railroad men and teamsters who brought the finished machines to the consumer, so that man, space, and time might be conquered, and ever-expanding victories be won against death.

And then I recalled, as clearly as if they were now flowing into my ears, the words I had heard spoken by a Russian worker. On a visit to his home I had noticed, hanging on a wall, three separate portraits above a fourth, of Stalin. The first portrait was of Karl Marx, the center one of Lenin, and the third, a likeness of my esteemed new friend, Henry Ford. As my face showed astonishment at this unique ensemble, the worker had explained, "Those three make the establishment of socialism a real possibility. Karl Marx produced the indispensable theory. Lenin applied the theory with his sense of large-scale social organization. And Henry Ford made the work of the socialist state possible. None of their contributions would have meant anything, however, without the political genius of Stalin."

Recalling these words now, I regretted that Henry Ford was a capitalist and one of the richest men on earth. I did not feel free to praise him as long and as loudly as I wanted to, since that would put me under the suspicion of sycophancy, of flattering the rich. Otherwise, I should have attempted to write a book presenting Henry Ford as I saw him, a true poet and artist, one of the greatest in the world.

Some time later Frida and I were invited by Ford to a party where the guests danced early American dances. Frida, looking lovely in her Mexican costume, soon became the center of attraction. Ford danced with her several times.

When the party was over, beckoning me to follow, Ford escorted Frida outside, where a car was waiting. It was a new Lincoln, a chauffeur at the wheel. Ford told Frida that the chauffeur had already been paid and that both he and the car were at Frida's disposal for the time she remained in Detroit.

I was embarrassed for us both and thanked Ford but declared that neither Frida nor I could possibly accept such a lavish gift. This car, I said, was too rich for our blood.

Ford took my refusal with gracious understanding. Then, without our knowledge, he got his son Edsel to design a special small Ford car, which he presented to Frida a short time later.
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Re: Diego Rivera: My Art, My Life. An Autobiography With Gla

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


Working at the Arts Institute now absorbed me completely. Despite the fact that I was on a rigorous meat-free and debilitating thyroid-supplemented diet to lose weight, I averaged fifteen hours a day on the scaffold, seven days a week. When I started painting, I weighed a good deal more than three hundred pounds; when I was done, I had worked and dieted off more than one hundred pounds.

Frida was also working. She had developed her own style and was beginning to paint real masterpieces. When we had been in Detroit for about six months, however, her mother fell fatally ill, and Frida had to return to Coyoacin. I remained in Detroit, laboring harder than ever.

In my previous murals, I had tried to achieve a harmony in my painting with the architecture of the building. But to attempt such a harmony in the garden of the Institute would have defeated my purposes. For the walls here were of an intricate Italian baroque style, with little windows, heads of satyrs, doorways, and sculpturesque mouldings. It was within such a frame that I was to represent the life of an age which had nothing to do with baroque refinements -- a new life which was characterized by masses, machines, and naked mechanical power. So I set to work consciously to over-power the ornamentation of the room.

My subject matter lent itself, both historically and pictorially, to this conflict. And to strengthen and integrate it plastically I decided, throughout its whole, to establish a rhythm more elemental, more powerful than any other in the garden. I chose one of the dominant rhythms in the life process -- the wave. My Detroit Institute mural consists of twenty-seven panels divided roughly into three levels; at the base, inset scenes depict events in the workers' day; at the main level, from the base mouldings to the tops of the columns, the major area of the composition, are shown machines in motion; on the upper level, the painting represents the physiography of the region, its soil, its minerals and fossils, its lake and river transport, and finally, directly under the rafters, its civilian and military aviation and the races of man. In panel after panel, the undulating wave reappears -- in the giant steel conveyor belts, in the tubes and piping, and in the strata of the sub-soil.

Thoroughly immersed in my labors though I was, I became conscious after a time, that whispers were beginning to circulate through the city concerning certain subjects of my frescoes. On the upper level of one wall, I had painted hands breaking through the surface of the earth to bring up pieces of minerals and metals. Above this portrayal, I had painted two reclining female nudes: one black, representing coal; one red, representing iron. On the wall directly opposite, I had shown hands taking limestone, sand, sulphur, and other light-colored substances from the earth, and directly above, had again represented their human analogues in white and yellow female nudes.

The females, who also represented the races of man, were autochthonous types, hardly "pretty." The gossip spread that I was painting a poem to ugliness, that this was what the figures symbolized, standing above the roar and glint of steel machinery. I, who knew better, merely worked on. What I did not understand was that certain people in Detroit were looking for a pretext to attack me and my mural.

In a pharmacological panel, they found it at last. In front of three men at work in a modern biochemical plant, I had pictured a child, in the arms of a nurse, being vaccinated by a white-gowned physician. Directly before them stood a horse, a cow, and some sheep -- animals from whose tissues many vaccines are prepared. The panel was intended to celebrate the noble work of men of science fighting against disease. To some people, the panel seemed to be a portrayal of the Holy Family in modern dress, the three laboratory workers standing for the three kings, and the animals the animals of the manger. To my enemies, because it had sprung from my conception, the painting was sacrilegious.

One day, from my scaffold, I observed a peculiar-looking man studying my panels. He was introduced to me as a painter of stained-glass windows for churches. Completely bald on top, he had a round, rosy-cheeked face framed in long gray hair which fell to his shoulders in curls. On greeting me, his thin lips widened into a weak smile. His blue-gray eyes were cast down as if he had lost something essential and was looking for it.

His gray suit was unusually shabby and dirty for someone living in the United States. He was shod in black canvas slippers in the style of Saint Antoine, who became a church janitor.

As he spoke, he joined his fingers in a handclasp, like a schoolgirl. He was, this odd creature told me, of French descent, and he had devoted all his life to religious art. Taking one last, sweeping look around the room, he congratulated me on my work with obvious insincerity and hurriedly departed. I didn't understand his purpose until several days later.

The following day another visitor, presented to me as a columnist for one of the big Detroit newspapers, came to see me at work. This visitor was even more unpleasant-looking than the religious painter. He wore his hat pulled down over his eyes, which, when he lifted his head, were obscured by lenses as thick as bottle glass.

After watching me for a time, he shouted up, "Don't you think the perspective is wrong?"

I peered down, and suddenly I found the sight of this terribly myopic, hat-blinded man so amusing that I could not control myself and burst out laughing.

The columnist squinted back at me in an uncomprehending and embarrassed manner. Finally, he asked where the lavatory was. Between gasps for breath, I gave him directions. Needless to say, he did not return.

But the following day he officially opened the campaign against me in his column. The basis of his condemnation was the alleged immorality of my frescoes. How, in such a beautiful museum, he asked, could I be permitted to paint such filth! He had been informed, he said, by trustworthy authorities, that I was dishonoring the walls of the Institute with pornographic paintings. If I was not stopped now …

But he was only the first of the crackpots who now set upon me.

An even more deranged -- and dangerous -- foe of my mural was a priest who lived in a suburb of Detroit. His name was Father Charles Coughlin. This clergyman had built a handsome church with the liberal contributions of his poor and ignorant followers. The building was lavishly decorated with stained-glass windows done, as it happened, by my queer visitor, the religious painter. In addition to his pulpit, Father Coughlin had at his disposal, for the dissemination of his lunacies, his own radio station. He used it to broadcast the most vicious reactionary propaganda imaginable, without any interference at all. The day after the appearance of the column denouncing my work, Father Coughlin began to honor me daily with long diatribes condemning the Institute frescoes as immoral, blasphemous, antireligious, obscene, materialistic, and communistic. As a result, the whole city of Detroit began to argue about what I was doing. A city councilman assailed my murals as "a travesty on the spirit of Detroit" and urged his fellow councilmen to order that they be washed from the walls. Soon the whole region entered into the melee. As for myself, I calmly continued to paint.

In the midst of the storm, Frida returned to Detroit. She had been watching her mother die, and was spent with grief. Added to this, she was horrified by my appearance. At first she could not recognize me. In her absence, I had dieted and worked so hard that I had lost a great deal of weight. I was also wearing an unfamiliar-looking suit belonging to Clifford Wight, because none of my own clothes now fitted me.

The moment I saw her, I called out, "It's me." Finally acknowledging my identity, she embraced me and began to cry. I looked hideous, my pale flesh hung loosely in elephantine folds. I tried to console her by telling her that, in compensation for my loss of weight, I had gained a new quickness of movement which enabled me to work with remarkable agility. As a result of my diet and thyroid treatment, I would be able to finish my work sooner than I had expected. But Frida refused to be pacified, and remained apprehensive until the last dab of paint on the last panel was dry.

Three days before the reopening of the museum to the general public, there was a private showing of my frescoes for the art patrons of Detroit, of whom there seemed to be very many.

Their condemnation was unanimous. Beautiful, well-dressed ladies complained about the loss of their peaceful, lovely garden, which had been like an oasis in the industrial desert of Detroit. Thanks to me, their charming sanctum was now an epitome of everything that made noise and smoke and dust. It seemed true enough to me that my paintings distracted attention from their gorgeous gowns.

Into the ears of the French architect of the garden, they whispered their dismay.

I stood apart, observing their reactions. Then I was approached by a group of society women with whom I had previously become acquainted. They asked me how I felt about the prevailing attitude toward my frescoes. I asked these ladies to report back to their friends that the growth and wealth of the city of Detroit which they enjoyed came from the subjects and substances to which they were objecting. Furthermore, I said, many of them owed their personal riches to steel, which I had been so assiduous in representing and which I happened to love, though it was certainly a hard and cold metal. What I had represented on their garden walls was reality.

Why had I not chosen something pleasanter to paint instead, such as concerts, sports, open-air festivals, or art expositions? I explained, as politely as I could, that I found any factory more significant and beautiful than any of the subjects they suggested.

They took offense at my reply and told me that they could not possibly believe I had made this statement in good faith. How, they wondered, coming from Mexico, a land of romance, and then trained in sophisticated Paris, could I voice such an opinion, if not to mock and belittle them? My attitude was unfair. They were not responsible for the merciless expansion of Detroit's industry. They were not guilty of imposing the mechanical ugliness of its factories upon the city's original stately elegance.

The morning after this sombre reception, a group of men whose bearing made it clear that they had no connection whatsoever with the previous night's visitors, arrived at the museum. More than sixty in number, they walked into the garden in almost military formation behind a man who acted as their spokesman. His card, presented to Clifford Wight, identified him as the chief engineer of the Chrysler automobile factory. All the others in his party, he told Cliff, were also engineers. Cliff could speak French as well as English, of which I knew little, and when he had made the introductions, I asked him to be our interpreter.

Cliff immediately began to explain to the group that my frescoes were the work of painters, not engineers. The spokesman interrupted him, almost rudely, with a motion of his hand. "I should like to talk to Diego Rivera."

Cliff looked at me questioningly, and I in turn conveyed to the speaker that he had my full attention.

"Each of these men," he began, "is an engineer in one of the important steel or automobile factories in Detroit. They wanted me to talk to you, first because I am their leader, and secondly, because you, my good fellow with your damned frescoes, have caused me to fail to report to my job on nineteen separate occasions. Never before you came here had I so much as set a foot inside this place. I am not interested in the usual cultural stuff. I pass this building every day to and from work. I stopped in the first time merely to see what the asses in the newspapers were braying at.

"Since that first visit, I have had the urge to return here again and again. I have already spent more than fifty hours in this place. I've brought these other men with me today to share my enjoyment. I waited until today, because I wanted to be sure that all those fashionable women, those salon parrots, were out of the way. But that is not the point. What I wish to say for myself and these men with me, is that had we been commissioned to do the job you were asked to do, we would, technically speaking, have done exactly what you did."

Then turning to Cliff Wight, "You may wish to correct me by reminding me that Rivera is not an engineer by profession, All right. But this fellow has fused together, in a few feet, sequences of operations which are actually performed in a distance of at least two miles, and every inch of his work is technically correct. That's what is so amazing!"

With that, and with all of his fellows following suit, he shook hands with Cliff and me in a deeply sincere congratulatory manner. Bidding us good-bye, the delegation of engineers then walked out as they had entered.

For the first time in my life, I felt not only content but elated and proud on account of this unique demonstration of approval of my work.

In the afternoon of the same day, I received an even more gratifying ovation. It was of a kind which made me feel that none of my efforts -- even those I had believed wasted -- had been in vain.

Again it began with a mass of men marching in to see me, but now there were not sixty but more than two hundred. This group also had a spokesman. However, he showed no credentials. As soon as he appeared, he shouted in a deep resonant voice, striding into the center of the garden, "We want Diego Rivera to come here!"

I stopped what I was doing and glanced around at the crowd below. At once, I descended from the scaffold and walked right up to the big, muscular speaker.

Waiving all ordinary social preliminaries, he acknowledged my presence with a nod of his head. "We are Detroit workers from different factories and belonging to different political parties. Some of us are Communists, some are Trotskyites, others are plain Democrats and Republicans, and still others belong to no party at all.

"You're said to be a man of the left opposition, though not a Trotskyite. In any case, you're reported to have said that, as long as the working class does not hold power, a proletarian art is impossible. You have further qualified this by saying that a proletarian art is feasible only so long as the class in power imposes such an art upon the general population. So you have implied that only in a revolutionary society can a true revolutionary art exist. All right! But can you show me, in all these paintings of yours, a square inch of surface which does not contain a proletarian character, subject, or feeling? If you can do this, I will immediately join the left opposition myself. If you cannot, you must admit before all these men, that here stands a classic example of proletarian art created exclusively by you for the pleasure of the workers of this city."

I looked around at the work I had done, and I conceded that the speaker was entirely right.

As soon as I had made my reply, a crippled man advanced toward me from the throng.

He said, "We discussed what might happen today. And we decided that a man such as you would certainly admit your error, being faced with indisputable proof of it. For our part, we must declare formally and in public, that in his art Maestro Diego Rivera is a man of great integrity and honesty."

I was deeply touched by this tribute from a representative of the working class of the industrial city I wanted so much to impress.

Pleased by my evident delight, he went on, smiling warmly, "While I have the floor, I'll take the opportunity to tell you what we think about your frescoes. We've discovered one thing only lacking from your excellent portrayal of our life, and that is the factory whistle. I say this in jest, but you know the whistle does mark the beginning and the end of our working day.

"Seriously, and most important of all, we wish to inform you of what we have done to express a fraction of our appreciation for the paintings you have given us.

"The Constitution of the State of Michigan permits its citizens to band together in the event that a group of individuals intends to destroy a part of the state's common wealth. In such a case, the citizens have the right to use any weapons at their disposal. As you well know, there has been much talk against your frescoes, and there have been rumors that hoodlums may come here to destroy them.

We have therefore organized a guard to protect your work. Eight thousand men have already volunteered. To legalize our action, in accordance with the Constitution, we have already sent a document describing our purposes to the Governor of Michigan."

The following Sunday, my frescoes were put on view for the general public. The men guarding the entrance to the Institute asked identification of every visitor by having him write his name and address in a register. Despite this unusual precautionary step, the museum authorities were obliged to keep the doors open until half past one on Monday morning. At closing time, the register bulged with the names and addresses of eighty-six thousand citizens of Detroit. For the next several months, there was a continuous stream of people coming to the Institute to view my work.

The battle of Detroit, however, continued a long time afterward. Father Coughlin, many Jesuits, and quite a few politicians -- some as far away from the frescoes as New York -- continued to rant against what I had done. Yet, among writers, men of science, university professors, and ordinary working people, I found defenders. I was gratified that Edsel Ford stood by me loyally. And until all the sound and fury had passed, my army of eight thousand, working in shifts, guarded my work from destruction.

My satisfaction was indeed complete. Years before, in Paris, I had abandoned a profitable career in cubism because I had envisioned the mural as the art form of the industrial society of the future. The overwhelming approval of my paintings by the workers of Detroit not only endorsed my belief but seemed to be the beginning of the realization of my life's dream. For, already, two other important commissions awaited me: one, to paint a mural for the Rockefellers in their R.C.A. Building in Rockefeller Center; the other, to do a mural on the theme of American industry in the General Motors Building for the forthcoming Chicago World's Fair.
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