A perceptive if patchy tribute to Mexico’s premier muralist and (arguably) second-most-renowned visual artist.
Along with biographical details (frank enough to acknowledge repeatedly that he always “liked the ladies, and the ladies had always liked him”), Rubin highlights aspects of Rivera’s art that sets it apart from Frida Kahlo’s: the focus on public settings, on depicting working classes and campesinos, on representing historical and industrial themes. The rich array of illustrations include bright images of full murals and details, sample preliminary drawings, big photos of Rivera at work (and posing with Kahlo) and even works by other artists, from Giotto to José Guadalupe Posada, that strongly affected his artistic development. Though the appended disquisitions on Mexico’s history and on Rivera’s artistic influences seem tacked on and in large part go over material the author has already presented, overall this offers readers who only know Rivera from picture-book biographies a more nuanced view of his controversial life and distinctive art.
A carefully researched, cogently argued and handsomely produced appreciation. (reading list, endnotes) (Biography. 10-13)