While there is no foreword to Diego Rivera to identify the author’s aims in writing the book, there is an afterword at the end of chapter 9 in which Cockcroft identifies Rivera as a man who “left behind not only a wealth of painting but the very idea of people’s art, inspiring others to paint with a social conscience.” In addition, the introduction to the book makes it clear that the series editors saw Rivera as a Hispanic of achievement who influenced American and world art profoundly but who is not as well known as he should be. Cockcroft seeks to correct this situation by exploring Rivera’s life thoroughly, defining the man, his belief system, and his art. A portrait of Rivera emerges that depicts a great artist, an individual with strong ideals, and a free spirit.
Throughout Rivera’s life, he was acknowledged as a pioneer in the painting of modern mural art, and his work is found all over Mexico and the United States, as well as in Europe. Nevertheless, he has always been a vague and controversial figure to the general public. To most, he is seen as a man having little reverence for religion and as an outspoken communist. Cockcroft is successful in defusing this feeling somewhat by depicting Rivera as a sociopolitical idealist who sought to celebrate the affairs of common people with dignity. Despite his communist sympathies, Rivera seemed to portray that sociopolitical system as one desirable way by which such individuals may...
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Diego Rivera is an excellent place to begin an exploration of the life and many artistic contributions of this great muralist. It is most suitable for art appreciation courses or for courses that delve into the psyches and social consciousness of great Hispanic individuals or of modern artists.
James Cockcroft portrays Diego Rivera, who is most often viewed solely as a stubborn, irreverent, and fanatical communist, as a thinking individual who developed a leftist sociopolitical viewpoint as a result of the political conditions existing in Mexico during his formative years. In addition, it becomes evident that Rivera both analyzed his own political ideology and was not fanatically adherent to communism. Rather, it seems likely that he saw communism as a way for the common people, whom he portrays so poignantly, to seek human dignity.
Diego Rivera provides a good sampling of black-and-white and color plates of the artist’s works, which makes clear his talent and his efforts to condemn social injustice and celebrate the inherent greatness of the common people. These aspects of the text make it quite useful for young people as a primer for social consciousness and a yardstick for great twentieth century art. Another aspect of the book that makes it useful for study by young readers is the view that it gives of Mexico’s political climate during Rivera’s lifetime; Cockcroft describes the actions of Mexican public officials, including several presidents, and important historical events in that country.
Diego Rivera also fleshes out the entire life of the artist, in contrast to the partial coverage in Florence Arquin’s Diego Rivera: Shaping of an Artist, 1889-1921 (1971). Moreover, it places all of his art in context in comparison to specialized texts such as Diego Rivera: Science and Creativity in the Detroit Murals (1986), by Dorothy McMeekin. These other books do provide more details about specific aspects of Rivera’s life and work, as do the many references in Cockcroft’s section on further readings.