We are grateful to Professor Luis-Martín Lozano for his assistance cataloguing this work.
Upon Diego Rivera’s return to Mexico in 1921, after nearly fourteen-years in Europe in close contact with the vanguard currents of the early twentieth century, the most decisive artistic phase of his professional trajectory truly began. For the first time in his artistic career, Rivera became part of a social movement that envisioned a modern utopia anchored on justice for those who had fought during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the creation of a new identity, wherein the contemporary indigenous people—not from the pre-Hispanic past—would hold a fundamental place in the culture of a modern Mexico.
After completing his first mural, La creación (Creation) in the Simón Bolívar amphitheater of the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Rivera finally understood that his theories about a modern art based on European models were far removed from his country’s reality in the aftermath of a terrible armed conflict and the dire need for social integration of Mexico’s least protected classes. Before beginning the ambitious project of decorating the murals in the old cloister of the Convent of La Encarnación, the seat of the new Secretariat of Public Education, Rivera embraced the task of traveling throughout his country’s north and south to discover a nation that up until then was unknown to him.
Rivera’s view thus, turned towards the Mexican indigenous people and campesinos, the ones who in spite of having lost everything during the Revolution, kept their ancient dignity and a fierce instinct for survival which allowed them to hold onto their values, and protect their traditions, resisting their disappearance while facing the changes of so-called progress. For Diego Rivera, Mexican children became a central theme within his artistic production between 1921 and up to the year of his demise; and, especially upon his return from New York in 1934 after the bitter experience of the destruction of his Rockefeller Center mural.
For the great muralist, children were the seeds for change, the silent guardians of Mexico’s cultural greatness. He lovingly recorded them and sketched them in drawings and watercolors, and on exceptional occasions, on splendid canvases full of light and color. Rivera’s children generally portray an intense gaze, self-assured which eludes explanation; their bronze complexion and defining features, an aesthetic convention derived from Rivera’s admiration for the pre-Hispanic figurines and ceramics he kept on the shelves of his studio in San Ángel, and visible in the background of this remarkable portrait, where we also see a little dog, Tlalchichi, from the Colima burial sites.
Professor Luis-Martín Lozano, Mexico City