The public persona of Diego Rivera and the heroic status bestowed upon him in Mexico was such that the artist became the subject of myth in his own lifetime. His own memories, as recorded in his various autobiographies, have contributed to his image as a precocious child of exotic parentage, a young firebrand who fought in the Mexican Revolution, and a visionary who completely repudiated his participation in the European avant-garde to follow a predestined course as the leader of Mexico’s art revolution.
Over the past forty years, critical opinion in the United States has remained virtually unchanged: Rivera’s work and the Mexican mural movement as a whole have been characterized as politically motivated, stylistically retrograde, and historically isolated. Furthermore, Mexican scholars have traditionally emphasized the overt revolutionary ideals and didactic content of Rivera’s murals in Mexico, thus extolling the very aspects of his work that have carried a negative connotation in the United States. In Mexico Rivera’s work is synonymous with institutionalized ideals of the Mexican Revolution, which promoted indigenous culture to the exclusion of foreign influence. As a consequence, in Mexico the vast body of published literature on Rivera has concentrated on his Mexican murals, while little attention has been given to his work in the United States and Europe or to his easel paintings and drawings.