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Diego Rivera’s Top 10 Works
Get inspired 23 May 2022

Diego Rivera’s Top 10 Works

diego rivera’s artwork
Man, Controller of the Universe, 1933-1934

The great Mexican muralist painter, Diego Rivera, is an icon of 20th century communist art. The husband of artist Frida Kahlo, the pair left a lasting imprint on the world, especially in Latin American. While Diego Rivera’s portfolio is colossal, Artsper offers a small selection of 10 of his best masterpieces!

1. Epopeya del pueblo mexicano: A fresco of and for the Mexican people

Epopeya del pueblo mexicano
Epopeya del pueblo mexicano, between 1929 and 1935, Palacio Nacional Murals view © Xtian

The Epopeya del Pueblo Mexicano is certainly the most famous of Diego Rivera’s artworks. This mural is monumental in both form and content, covering three different walls with a total surface area of 276 m². The separate parts dialogue with each other linked by a chronological logic. First, the right wall depicts pre-Hispanic Mexico and Toltec culture, through the myth of Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl. The middle wall represents Mexico after the fall of the Aztec Empire and until the revolution of 1910. The last wall illustrates the “Mexico of today and tomorrow”, a Marxist Mexico of the 20th century. Emblematic, this fresco covering the walls of the National Palace of Mexico City traces the history of the Mexican people.

2. Río Juchitán: Diego Rivera’s most peaceful artwork

diego rivera’s artwork
Río Juchitán, 1956, Museo Soumaya – © EFE

Also known as Baño de Tehuantepec, this mural is made of Venetian mosaics. Fascinated by this region, Rivera offers a scene of life inspired by Tehuantepec, the city and region known for its traditional women’s dress, which was adopted by Frida Kahlo. Covering more than 25 m², we can admire different characters going about their daily activities. Another specificity of this work is the use the technique recto verso.  This is a way for the painter to give spectators two different points of view of a similar scene.

3. Paisaje zapatista – El guerrillero: Cubism in Diego Rivera’s artwork

cubism in diego rivera's works
Paisaje zapatista – El guerrillero, 1915

Less well known, Rivera’s early work as a painter was strongly influenced by Cubist inspirations. This work is a perfect illustration: a representation of Mexico, as crazy as it is poetic!

4. Dance of Tehuantepec: An ode to Mexican dance

diego rivera’s artwork
Dance of Tehuantepec, 1939, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

A dynamic scene of life, Dance of Tehuantepec illustrates once again Rivera’s love for this region. It’s a new tribute to the Mexican people and their culture, through a harmonious dance.

5. Man, Controller of the Universe: A portrait of 1930s society

Controller of the Universe
Man, Controller of the Universe, 1933-1934

A true symbol of the 1930s, this monumental fresco paints a social and cultural portrait of its time. Industry, science, ethics, communism and capitalism are among the subjects raised in Diego Rivera’s visionary piece of art. This work is to be viewed again and again each time with new depth and meaning.

6. Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central: A daydream

diego rivera’s artwork
Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central, 1946-1947, Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Alameda Park, Mexico City

Translated as Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Central Alameda, this work of art presents emblematic characters of Mexico. The ubiquitous Calavera Catrina (Elegant Skull) is placed in the center. She holds the hand of Diego Rivera, who is shown as a child under the protection of Frida Kahlo. Around her, Francisco I. Madero, Porfirio Díaz, Winfield Scott and Benito Juárez, walk in the garden of Alameda Central.

7. The Flower Carrier: A tribute to the workers of the fields

The Flower Carrier, 1935
The Flower Carrier, 1935

Flowers are a recurring theme in Rivera’s work, as is the workers of the fields and the harvest. This extremely delicate painting highlights the difficulty of the work of the flower bearer. It is Rivera’s way of paying homage to these workers, whose hard work he respected and admired.

8. Los Rivales: Diego Rivera’s artwork at the highest value

diego rivera’s artwork
Los Rivales, 1931 © Christie’s

Since May 2018, this has become one of the most Diego Rivera’s famous paintings. It made headline news following an auction at Christie’s. Los Rivales sold for almost $10 million, becoming the most expensive work by a Latin American artist.

9. Ignacio Sanchéz: One of Diego Rivera’s best portraits

Ignacio Sanchez, 1939
Ignacio Sanchez, 1939

Through his travels and encounters, Diego Rivera created beautiful portraits of the Mexican people. Here, the artist represents with sweetness and simplicity the little Ignacio, a Mexican boy. A work that is both moving and relaxing, thanks to its authenticity and soothing colors.

10. Detroit Industry: the most monumental of Diego Rivera’s artworks

diego rivera’s artwork
Detroit Industry, 1932 © Rue des Archives PVDE © 2014 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust

A true ode to communism, this colossal fresco represents Ford workers at the factory. It is part of a series of 27 murals on industry painted by Rivera from 1932 to 1933. As a permanent part of the Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit Industry stands boldly as a “Social, Political and Aesthetic Declaration.” A true representation of art reflected in the communist movement amidst the rise of capitalism.

The radically grandiose work of Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera was impressive for his plurality of approaches and inspirations. A defender of Mexican culture, he was no less a communist, a classical portraitist and a cubist painter. Ultimately, his work is characterized by the size of his paintings, as imposing as the impact he left on the world of art.