Mercado de Flores, 1930
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University; gift to the
Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. Collection in memory of his father, Robert B. Ekelund
Diego Rivera is arguably the most important figure in modern Mexican art, whose diverse body of work had a profound influence on his contemporaries and subsequent generations of Mexican and international artists. Rivera spent nearly 14 years in Europe early in his career, absorbing the range of early 20th-century modernist trends. Inspired by the Russian October Revolution, he returned home in 1921 carrying both a desire for social reform and strong aspirations to create a truly “Mexican art.” Those goals merged in the form of public murals, which Rivera and a host of his colleagues painted in Mexico City and in sites across the country. The ensuing “Mexican Mural Movement” attracted scores of artists from around the world—including Jean Charlot, Howard Cook, and Maltby Sykes, each represented in this exhibition—to engage in Mexico’s vibrant and politically charged artistic scene and, in particular, to learn from the modern master, Rivera.
While best known for his public frescoes on a monumental scale, Rivera also produced many smaller paintings and prints, such as Mercado de Flores. The ability to create art that was accessible to “the people” motivated Rivera’s work in public murals. Similarly, the print medium allowed Rivera to make images that were widely distributable and affordable to the working class. Typical of Rivera’s art, Mercado de Flores, a lithograph produced during one of the artist’s most fertile periods, is imbued with subtle political undertones. Through simple lines, he renders a group of faceless, peasant, flower vendors on their knees before a parade of more bourgeois shoppers. That Rivera identified with the common workers is made clear in the fact that he placed himself, and thus his point of view, on the vendors’ side of the road.