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Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
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Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

Pepenadora

Details
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
Pepenadora
signed and dated 'DIEGO RIVERA 35' (upper right)
tempera on masonite
24 ½ x 19 in. (62.2 x 48 cm.)
Painted in 1935.
Provenance
Galería Central de Arte Moderno, Mexico City.
Earlham College collection, Richmond, Virginia, gift of Edna and Chalmer Hadley.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 16 November 1994, lot 13.
Private collection, Mexico City.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 21 November 2006, lot 20.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
B. Wolfe, Portrait of Mexico, New York, Covici Freide, 1937, pl. 97 (illustrated).
Diego Rivera: Pintura de Caballete y Dibujos, Mexico City, Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana, 1979, p. 141, no. 127 (illustrated).
Diego Rivera: Catálogo General de Obra de Caballete, Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1989, p. 161, no. 1223 (illustrated).

Exhibited
Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Diego Rivera, Cincuenta Años de su Labor Artística, 1951, no. 526 (illustrated in color).
Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Diego Rivera: Art and Revolution, February - May 1999, p. 343 (illustrated in color). This exhibition later traveled to Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, May - August 1999; Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, September - November 1999; Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo de Arte Moderno, December 1999 - March 2000.
Special Notice

From time to time, Christie's may offer a lot which it owns in whole or in part. This is such a lot.
Post Lot Text
This work 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 work 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.
Sale Room Notice
Lot 25 is part of the National Heritage of Mexico.  Accordingly, prospective buyers should be aware that this Lot cannot be removed from Mexico and delivery of the lot will be made in Mexico in compliance with local requirements.

Lot Essay

In 1935, the Mexican painter Diego Rivera returned to his country after an ill-fated experience with a mural project in New York for the lobby of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) building, commissioned by the Rockefeller family. Rivera would not return to the United States until 1939. In the interim, he embarked on a highly productive period of artistic creativity in Mexico. And in 1938, he headed to the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City to paint a new version of Man at the Crossroads, the destroyed mural in the complex of the Rockefeller building. He was also very enthusiastic about the prospects of painting murals in the old building of the School of Medicine with the theme of The Apotheosis of the Medical Sciences, as well as another project, that would likewise remain unrealized, for the building of the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Parallel to these projects Rivera realized numerous watercolors and drawings, including some of his most well-known works about Mexico. These were difficult years in the shadow of the advance of Fascism in Europe and the advent of the World War II, and at time when Rivera shared the principles of Trotskyism as a leftist political alternative to new world order. La Pepenadora, as this painting is known, was exhibited for the first time in 1949, in the artist’s first major retrospective celebrating his fifty years of artistic work, Diego Rivera 50 años de su labor artística. It was painted by Rivera at this pivotal moment of profound political upheaval in the world and of the artist’s own evolving social and ideological beliefs. Rivera’s approach in this painting emulates the grandiloquence of the figures in his fresco murals. It’s executed in a technique that Rivera referred to as “temple al óleo” or oil painting with tempera in which tempera is used as a binding substance for the oil pigments creating a looseness and transparency similar to the effects of his fresco murals as well as a visual quality reminiscent of the great medieval painters. The use of tempera requires a precise hand by the artist as it dries fast and does not allow for heavy application or revisions. Rivera’s use of this technique demonstrates his extraordinary talent as a draftsman and also suggests a certain classical antiquity which imbues a timeless dignity to the humble job of pepenadora or scavenger. In the Nahuatl language, pepenar means to scavenge or gather what is still usable from the refuse. Rivera illustrates for us a woman from one of the lowest social stratums, who earns a living from the laborious task of carrying a load of what she has gathered during a long and unrewarding day. He captures this arduous task with a stoicism akin to that of Greco-Roman sculptures, as if they were artifacts from the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii. With this magnificent composition, Rivera calls attention to the world of waste that this poor woman carries on her back, yet she remains undefeated, even as she walks barefoot. Finally, the great muralist reveals to the spectator’s attentive eyes an homage to the most unprotected of social classes in Mexico and shares his grand humanistic vision by elevating his subject matter and placing it at the forefront of universal art.

Prof. Luis-Martín Lozano, Mexico City

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