Painted by renowned Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886-1957), Escena nocturna (Night Scene) belongs to the artist's first creative period. Completed in 1909, the work is painted in oil on canvas (39 cm by 47 cm.) After studying painting at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes which was part of the old Academia de San Carlos in Mexico, Rivera sought to further study art in Europe and was granted a scholarship by the governor of the State of Veracruz Don Teodoro Dehesa, during the government of Porfirio Díaz. Rivera sailed from Mexico to Madrid in 1907, looking to study painting with Eduardo Chicarro y Agüera (1873-1949), a well-known teacher. What is certain is that Diego Rivera had been an outstanding student while at the academy in Mexico, where he had received scholarships, recognition, and a solid training as a draftsman, landscape painter and an outstanding colorist. His primary goal was to broaden his knowledge of the cosmopolitan and regionalist modernism he had begun to study in Mexico.
In Spain he ambitiously studied the work of the great masters at the Prado Museum, joining the tertulias or discussions among the painters and writers who addressed the artistic currents of the time--praising the paintings of Julio Romero de Torres and Ignacio Zuloaga, among others. After showing his recent works in student exhibitions while a student of Chicarro as well as in the National Fine Arts Exhibition in Madrid (Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes de Madrid), Rivera undertook a series of field trips in 1908 that would take him around various European cities, most notably in Spain. By 1909 Rivera found himself in Paris, en route to Bruges. Initially Paris had not been an important destination in Rivera's itinerary as he was more intent on visiting Rome, Munich and Venice. Nevertheless, the city won him over and soon he was part of the most avant-garde artistic milieu, more much so than those with which had had been engaged with in Spain and Mexico.
Although a scant production, the works from this particular period in the artist's oeuvre, allow us to observe how he was influenced by the work of the Post-Impressionists Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin and the group of the Näbis. Escena nocturna particularly reflects the youthful Diego Rivera's aesthetic concerns and how he developed his ideas absorbing the cosmopolitan Parisian life through the expressionist execution of the European Post-impressionists.
Signed "Diego M. Rivera" and dated in 1909 on the lower right hand corner, the painting was dedicated to Dr. Hernández Sampelayo, "para que asuste a sus enfermos" ("so that he may scare his patients"). Numbered "78," this work is listed as Escena nocturna in the Catálogo general de obra de caballete (the artist's Catalogue Raisonné) published by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes de México (Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts), in 1989. In 1995 the work was also included in the exhibition Joaquín Clausell y los ecos del impresionismo en México (Joaquín Clausell and the Echoes of Impressionism in Mexico), organized by the Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico where it is included the exhibition catalogue as image # 144, page 27. As chief curator of the international traveling exhibition, Diego Rivera: Arte y revolución (Diego Rivera: Art and Revolution), I selected this work. The exhibition opened at The Cleveland Museum of Art, February 14 to May 2, 1999 and later traveled to The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, May 30 to August 16, 1999, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, September 19 to November 18, 1999, and concluded its tour at the Museo de Arte Moderno, (Museum of Modern Art) Mexico City, December 17, 1999 to March 19, 2000. Escena nocturna has been reproduced in color in both the Spanish and English language editions of the exhibition catalogue.
Profesor Luis-Martín Lozano
This painting is part of the National Heritage of Mexico and cannot be removed from that country. Accordingly, it is offered for sale in New York from the catalogue and will not be available in New York. Delivery of the painting will be made in Mexico in compliance with local requirements. Prospective buyers may contact Christie's Representatives in Mexico for an appointment to view the work.