DIEGO RIVERA -- MY ART, MY LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (WITH GLADYS MARCH)
A QUALIFIED SUCCESS
On the way back to Paris, I experienced a siege of homesickness. In the British Museum, I had again come upon my first love in art, the art of pre-Conquest Mexico. I began to realize that, in the heavy atmosphere of European culture, I had begun to lose my bearings. Suddenly I felt an overmastering need to see my land and my people.
Back in Paris, the desire did not leave me. For some time, I had been thinking about making a trip back to Mexico at the end of 1910. Now this idea became almost an obsession.
Before that, however, I wanted to show something of my work in one of the large exhibitions.
My compatriots considered acceptance at the official French Salon d' Automne as the apex of artistic recognition. Consequently, I made that my goal. Yet I couldn't help feeling that I would be compromising my artistic integrity. Every true master of modern French painting had been rejected by this or similar academic salons which fostered pompous mediocrity and academicism.
However, if I succeeded in getting my work shown, my subsidy would be extended another two years. I needed this time to carry out a plan 1 had formulated: to digest all the forms of modern painting the better to eliminate them from my own artistic idiom. Thus I decided to make the sacrifice.
As my entry for the exposition, I worked on a canvas called "The House on the Bridge," which I had started in Bruges three months before. I tried to do my best by pushing myself to a maximum of emotional sincerity. At the same time, I also hoped that my entry would be rejected by the jury. This would prove that the jury was unfit to recognize even a measure of sincerity, and would link me with the masters whom I admired.
I was in conflict as well over the sheer economic issue. It was good, of course, to have the grant from the government of Veracruz and be free to pursue my own plan of artistic development. But I also wanted to be able to face life by myself, to solve my economic problems by my work. I had begun to feel restive under patronage, fearing that dependence might sap my strength. With such inner conflicts driving me almost to the point of despair, I grimly worked on my project for three long months.
At last the time arrived for me to send the painting to the jury. I awaited the jury's decision with apprehension. Whatever it was, it must disappoint me. Acceptance would be a reproach, but rejection is always a blow.
Then the word came: my painting would be shown.
I will always remember the anguish this news gave me. When my comrades congratulated me, I quarreled with them violently. For me to be congratulated over acceptance by the Salon d'Automne was an insult.
Nevertheless, on opening day, I managed to find a small measure of balm. Two thousand artists were represented by about six thousand canvases, and in this vast conglomeration, my painting really seemed to stand out. Though it looked academic, it was touched with a quality of sensitivity which set it apart from its more vulgar neighbors. I began to take heart for my future.
During the period of the exposition, I undertook an extensive study of the most recent creations of the Paris school. When the show ended, I went to Brittany for the summer to work at new paintings to bring back to Mexico. It was now that I began to shed some of my old feeling of inferiority. The work I did in Brittany contained good plastic qualities. Belonging to this period is my painting "Shipwreck," which possesses an architectonic grandeur and even a certain poetical quality.
In the fall, I returned to Paris to get ready for my trip home. Rolling up all my completed paintings, I departed for Spain, stopping there only long enough to pick up other canvases I had left in the care of a friend. I sailed from Santander to Mexico in September, 1910.