Diego Rivera’s 1941 painting El Vendedor De Alcatraces is a resilent and proud reproduction of the likeness of a Mexican peasant quite literally shouldering his burden. The preeminent Mexican painter, most renowned for his use and reinvigoration of the indigenous Mural style, was also the husband of the prominent Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The pair’s turbulent relationship spurred prodigious creative output on the part of both. Famous for his large-scale fresco works, Rivera’s Man at the Crossroads, commissioned and started in 1933 for the Rockefeller Center in New York City, was destroyed after members of the public and commissioning body erupted in anger at the depiction of Lenin. A fervent Marxist, Rivera’s life’s works were suffused with a concern for working conditions and the benefits of industry. Rivera’s powerful and resonant images often are littered with figurative reproductions of the whole gamut of professions, crafts, and talents of industrial life, all uniting into a utopian system of productivity. El Vendedor De Alcatraces is no exception.
This vivid reproduction of the likeness of a Mexican peasant is rendered in totemic, local colors, the stylized form of the hunched man bearing a great load appears almost akin to a coiled spring. Brimming with vitality and promise, yet weighed down by a lifetime of subservience, Rivera’s subject is a characteristic icon of Mexico’s history and social problems. Striving to portray his themes and concerns in a form that would be accessible to illiterate peasants with no schooling in art, Rivera’s propagandistic images are memorable agitations towards revolutionary politics. Having honed his talents amongst Picasso and Modigliani in Montparnasse in the early 1900s, Rivera’s work expressed a socialist utopian dream of world revolution, anchored in the local traditions and modes of representations that ensure unity is expressed in true diversity.
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