DIEGO RIVERA -- MY ART, MY LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (WITH GLADYS MARCH)
AS A CURIOUS AFTERMATH of the Prado affair, a Mexican representative of a well-known American private detective agency, mainly employed in guarding the lives and property of millionaires from the States, laid a unique proposition before me. He approached me indirectly through my dear friend Dr. Arenal (sister-in-law of Siqueiros), who relayed the offer. This gentleman declared that his firm would give me five years of complete protection for myself, my paintings, and my property, in return for permitting my name to be listed as one of his company's clients.
To Dr. Arenal, he explained that he was making his proposal through her because his organization had ascertained that between her and myself there existed a high degree of mutual felicity. Its reports about our relations, in fact, indicated that no one else at the time was dearer to me than she. Calmly ignoring this last, Dr. Arenal refused to broach the matter with me unless she learned the true motives for the company's generosity.
Her visitor then replied, "We have estimated that the publicity received by the del Prado Hotel through Senor Rivera's mural was worth $3,230,000 at prevailing space rates. This is about half the value of the entire plant together with all its furnishings. We are convinced that to have Rivera as one of our clients would be a publicity asset. We have asked you to be our intermediary as a way of proving to Senor Rivera that we are accurately informed about his private life. Thus," the man concluded smugly, "he will have a free demonstration of our efficiency."
When Dr. Arenal relayed the offer to me, I rejected it at once. The relationship between Dr. Arenal and myself by which he "proved" his agency's merit was simply nonexistent. I wish it had been otherwise. Dr. Arenal is an intelligent, charming, and beautiful woman, but alas, she has never been to me what her "well-informed" visitor declared.
The Fine Arts Institute, which had done nothing to protect my rights in the fracas over "Sunday Dream," meanwhile organized a retrospective exhibit of the work I had done in the last fifty years. The idea was hit upon, I am sure, as a means of pacifying and compensating me. The directors of the Institute may also have expected that, because of changing art trends, the show would prove a flop. If so, they must have been very much disappointed. From the evening of the premiere to its close, a continuous stream of enthusiastic viewers literally jammed the Palace of Fine Arts, which housed the show.
While I was preparing for the exhibition, I gave Frida another bad time. I had fallen in love with the movie actress Maria Felix. I not only planned to center my show around a life-sized portrait I had painted of her, but I took steps toward a second divorce. Frida suffered deeply. And needlessly, as it turned out. For Maria not only refused to marry me, but for reasons of her own, having nothing to do with our personal relations, refused to lend me her portrait for the exhibit.
So I was left with my injured feelings, one blank wall, and a wife who was miserable and hurt. Within a short space of time, however, everything was well again. I got over my rejection by Maria. Frida was happy to have me back, and I was grateful to be married to her still. And the painting I used in place of Maria's portrait attracted far more attention than the latter would have. It was a tremendous, provocative, life-size nude of the poetess Pita Amor.
In all respects, the show which opened in the summer of 1949 was a huge success. Collectors from all over the world loaned their Riveras, including, oddly enough, Nelson Rockefeller and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It was gratifying to think that in spite of our past differences, the echoes of which had reverberated around the globe, the Rockefellers still considered me an artist worthy of attention.
Ironically, the President Aleman of my heretofore objectionable composite portrait was swayed by the overwhelming public ovation to declare over the radio that I was a true artistic genius! I found this evaluation by Mexico's chief executive most amusing -- a farcical denouement of the upheaval which had preceded it. Shortly afterward, the Mexican Government presented me with the National Prize for Plastic Art.
As for my "blasphemous" mural, its status, until recently, remained quo. It stood in its original place on the wall of the Prado dining room screened off from the general public every day except Sunday, when it was permitted to be viewed from 10:30 A.M. until noon. Then, and only then, those who wished could study the work at their leisure. Perhaps the rule obtains; I do not know.
In 1956, of my own free will, I decided to change Ramirez's objectionable phrase, as a minor contribution to the cause of international and national unity (97 per cent of my countrymen are Catholic). I ordered "God does not exist" be replaced with the phrase, "Conference of Letran, 1836." I felt that in the intervening eight years time I had proved my position. I posted my wishes in the matter from the Soviet Union during my second visit to that country.