Diego Rivera: The Cubist Portraits, 1913 – 1917
Meadows Museum | June 21 – Sept 20, 2009
The Meadows Museum is now showing Diego Rivera: The Cubist Portraits, 1913 – 1917. The exhibit brings together 22 paintings and 8 sketches from museums and private collections around the world. The Cubist Portraits, which began June 21 and runs through September 20, 2009, is prominently displayed in the Meadow’s permanent collection galleries. Adjacent galleries include works by Diego Rivera’s friends and contemporaries.
Diego Rivera and Cubism
Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957) is widely known as one of Mexico’s most famous artists and a leading member of the Mexican Mural Renaissance, along with José Orozco (1883 – 1949) and David Siqueiros (1896 – 1974). He painted frescos in major cities including Mexico City, Chapingo, Detroit and New York. Rivera is equally famous for being the husband of another Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954).
Rivera is not as well known for his years in Europe as a cubist painter. In 1909 Rivera went to Spain on a government pension and later moved to Paris until 1921. During this time he was surrounded by poets, writers, lovers and artists alike. This was the perfect place for Rivera to complete his art apprenticeship.
Cubism was the avant-garde art movement at hand while Rivera was abroad. In 1907, Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) and Georges Braque (1882 – 1963) pioneered cubism by breaking up objects and reassembling them again in an abstract form. The objective was to depict a subject from many viewpoints at the same time.
When Rivera started Cubism in 1913, Picasso and Braque had moved on to other styles. Cubism was still very popular and it was a great time for Rivera to sharpen his artistic skills. Although he was accomplished with landscapes and still life painting, Rivera preferred portraiture.
About the Exhibit
Diego Rivera: The Cubist Portraits, 1913 – 1917 is prominently displayed in the Meadow’s permanent collection gallery which is well suited for these 20th century masterpieces. The Meadows is the only venue for this exhibit.
The Cubist Portraits is a very rare collection of works. Rivera is not as well known for his Cubism and the chances for getting these or similar pieces together again are very unlikely. This is also the first time Rivera has ever had a solo exhibit in Dallas.
Patrons should not be alarmed by all the reading material presented in the exhibit. Both English and Spanish translations have been provided throughout the collection.
The Cubist Portraits is a great exhibit and I highly recommend seeing it. More than enough of the 22 works can be considered great works of art and are well worth a visit to the Meadows Museum. Rivera’s earlier works (1913-15) captured wonderful colors, lines and movement. I was less impressed with his less colorful, simplified later works (1916-17), although they do exhibit warmth.
My favorite paintings include Girl with Artichokes (1913), Portrait of a Painter (1913) and Zapatista Landscape (1915). These are delightful Cubist paintings with rich color and lots of detail to enjoy.
The Cubist Portraits was based on the Meadow’s own painting, Portrait of Ilya Ehrenburg (1915). Ehrenburg is a great example of Rivera’s transformation from his early to later period of Cubism, when he experimented more with shapes and building up of the canvas surface. Ehrenburg is not one of my favorites but it is an old friend and joy to see at the museum.
The Meadows is also displaying a few work by his friends and contemporaries from the permanent collection including Picasso, Joaquín Sorolla (1863 – 1923) and María Blanchard (1881 – 1932).
Another gem from the Meadow’s collection is Fatima (1927) by Eduardo Chicharro y Agüera (1873 – 1949). Rivera spent his years in Spain as an apprentice in Chicharro’s studio.
The down-stairs gallery includes lithographs by Orozco and Rivera including Seated Nude with Raised Arms (Frida Kahlo) and photographs by Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902 – 2002). The lithographs are in Rivera post-Paris style, when he returned to Mexico.
Diego Rivera: The Cubist Portraits, 1913 – 1917 already has my vote for best exhibit in 2009. I recommend visiting the Meadows Museum multiple times to fully take in the grandeur of these paintings. Cheers.
About the Author
Michael Roman is both an undergraduate from the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and a proud supporter of the Meadows Museum. His studies at SMU included Advertising and Art History. Michael Roman would likely still be a SMU football season ticket holder if the Mustangs started winning more games and considered lowering prices in this down economy. Go Mustangs!