DIEGO RIVERA -- MY ART, MY LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (WITH GLADYS MARCH)
THE MEXICAN RENAISSANCE
WHILE I WAS WORKING on my Preparatory School mural, a group of young painters began to collect around me, some of whom, fascinated by an art form new to them, became my assistants. Soon we were banding together to win acceptance for social art. We found an ally in Lombardo Toledano, the young director of the school, and thanks to him, four of my young friends were given wall space in the school equal to mine before I had even finished my own work. Scarcely had all this activity gotten under way when passionate discussions about the new art reverberated through all social strata of the city. When the Minister of Education, who had so far remained uncommitted, realized what repercussions our efforts were creating at all levels of society, he adopted our ideas and -- luckily for our work -- proclaimed from above the usefulness of monumental painting on the walls of public buildings.
Portrait of David Alfaro Siqueiros. 1921. Charcoal and red chalk on tan paper, 15-1/4 x 9-1/2" (38.8 x 24.4 cm). Museo Diego Rivera, INBA, Guanajuato
Our group then formed the Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors. Its members included Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Xavier Guerrero, Jean Charlot, Carlos Merida, Ramon Alba, Fermin Revueltos, and the youthful Maximo Pacheco.
We applied for and received work under financial arrangements identical to those of house painters. Soon frescoes blossomed on the walls of schools, hotels, and other public buildings, in spite of violent attacks by the bourgeois intelligentsia and the press under its influence. But the workers of town and country strongly supported us -- and our enemies did not prevail.
We began to have a strong influence, also, on art students of the country who were penned in at the academies.
These students had been mincing their way through a well-behaved impressionism, reflecting what had been done in Paris around 1900. It goes without saying that we disturbed this sedate regime. Art instruction changed orientation completely. Free art schools opened everywhere, and thousands of workers and children of workers brought forth remarkable productions. Their work fused quite naturally with ours, creating the art movement which European and American art critics have dubbed the "Mexican Renaissance."