DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957)
DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957)
DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957)
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DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957)
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Property From the Collection of the Solomon Kempler Family
DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957)

El copetón

DIEGO RIVERA (1886-1957)
El copetón
signed and dated 'Diego Rivera, 30' (lower left)
encaustic on canvas
23 ¾ x 17 ¾ in. (60.3 x 45.1 cm.)
Painted in 1930.
Carl Van Vechten, New York.
Joseph Solomon, New York (acquired from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
B. Wolfe, et al., Portrait of Mexico, 1937, n. 34 (illustrated).
A. Souza, "Los niños mexicanos pintados por Diego Rivera," Artes de México, Vol. 5, No. 27, 1959, n. 13 (illustrated).
D. Rivera, Diego Rivera [v.] 1 Pintura de caballete y dibujos, 1979, n. 183, p. 188 (illustrated in color).
Diego Rivera: Catálogo general de obra de caballete, 1989, n. 906, p. 121 (illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Diego Rivera, 1931, no. 42 (illustrated).
Mexico, Museo Nacional de Artes Plasticas, Diego Rivera: 50 Años de labor artística, August-December 1951, n. 756, p. 220 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Diego Rivera's formative experience in Europe between the years 1907 and 1921 not only encompassed the assimilation of multiple formal languages, such as Symbolism and Cubism, but also involved adopting an avant-garde position regarding the mission of art, the role of the modern artist and of their potential impact on the transformation of contemporary society. In his process of growth and of stylistic and intellectual transformation as an artist, Rivera had to assume a position regarding history and the past, especially considering the enormous social and political upheavals that had shaped Western culture at the beginning of the 20th century: the century’s first social revolution in his own native Mexico and later, the adversities of the First World War in Europe. The latter events would lead him to gradually shift away from mere aesthetic speculation and assume a commitment to change with regards to established artistic paradigms.

During his years in Paris, Rivera understood—as did many other painters—, that for the new conception of art that emerged during the modern era, traditional Euro-centrist discourses had ceased to operate effectively and that the experimentation with new formal and conceptual languages from an avant-garde perspective had been nourished, precisely, by those cultures that the West had previously kept on the periphery as being part of the exotic or the primitive. The painter had explored these ideas in Europe while studying the asceticism of the Pont-Aven School or the influence of Japonisme on painters such as Les Nabis in the context of Post-Impressionism in Paris. Rivera felt an affinity to these revisionist tendencies and also analyzed the mannerisms of the Spanish painter, El Greco, whose lessons led him to Cubism.

When Rivera connected with the Mexican artistic scene that emerged after the Mexican Revolution, he understood that the nation was in the midst of a philosophical and pragmatic process of reconstruction and national unification, given the demands of the new social and political order that were gaining strength and form. Diego Rivera led the Mexican cultural renaissance in accordance with his ideas as an avant-garde artist, as he had learned in Paris, conceiving a new vision for modern Mexican art, not only in terms of the innovation of formal languages, but also as an ethical stance with a deep social commitment. To this end, during the 1920s, Rivera recuperated the connections to Mexico’s ancestral cultures, studying and giving continuity to the traditions inherited from pre-Hispanic art, but also giving voice to the customs that emerged from popular culture.

Thus, several paintings by the artist executed in the late 1920s and early 1930s reflect the influence of the monolithic forms of ancient Mexican sculpture—which must have echoed the painter's geometric compositions he had previously explored through Cubism in Paris—, those of hieratic and structural figures with bodies slightly altered by simple lines and subtle marks of contained expression; same qualities that are evident in the magnificent portrait of this Mexican girl with deeply set black eyes which also emulate the Aztec sculptural art which Rivera so admired and collected throughout his life. Such sculptures can still be visited today in the collection of the Anahuacalli Museum which is part of the painter's legacy to the people of Mexico.

Professor Luis-Martín Lozano, Art Historian

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