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Synopsis

Writer/critic Pedro Henríquez Ureña describes Diego Rivera as a scholar. He compares Rivera to the Venetians and the Spaniards, the Florentines and the French, then he discusses the Mexican artist’s interest in the structure of the objects that he paints. Henríquez Ureña discerns the influence of Paul Cézanne in Rivera’s work, pointing to the latter’s ability to extract the essential forms from his surroundings and express them in his paintings. Henríquez Ureña wonders whether Rivera’s work is still within the parameters of Cubism, and answers his own question with a negative. He believes that the muralist’s work can be called “classical” since there are now traces of Cubism everywhere. Paradoxically, the critic from the Dominican Republic places Rivera within the contemporary aesthetic which, in his opinion, is reminiscent of the work of Auguste Renoir and Francisco Goya. Due to the geographic distances involved, Henríquez Ureña ends his article by saying that Rivera’s work expresses a vision of the Americas that holds great promise for Mexican art.  

Annotations

Pedro Henríquez Ureña discusses Diego Rivera’s work and compares him to the great artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. This article is significant because Diego Rivera (1886-1957) had not yet begun to express the nationalist narrative that he developed as a result of his later commitment to the concept of an art of and for the people. He soon embraced this approach, however, in response to the educational and cultural reforms prompted by the philosopher and educator José Vasconcelos (1882-1959). At that point in time, Rivera’s work was still influenced by the European avant-garde, and had not yet begun to express the ideological and revolutionary ideas that he later explored in his murals.

Pedro Henríquez Ureña (1884-1946) was born in the Dominican Republic into a family of intellectuals and went on to become one of the most important Latin American critics and philosophers of the twentieth century. After graduating from high school, Henríquez Ureña went to the United States on the first leg of what would be a lengthy absence from the land of his birth. In Spain he was actively involved with the magazine Filología Española [Spanish Philology]; in Mexico (1906-1913) he was Director of Public Education and a professor and Department Head at the Universidad Nacional; in the United States (1915-1916) he was a university professor; in Argentina he was a professor at the universities of Buenos Aires and La Plata (as from 1924). Later on, in the 1940s, he became associated with Sur [South], the magazine published by Victoria Ocampo. He was also General Superintendent of Education in the Dominican Republic.

The image shown in the article, Retrato del pintor Renato Paresce [Portrait of the painter Renato Paresce] (1919), is not in the general catalogue of works by Diego Rivera.

Researcher
Eloísa Hernández
Team
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Credit
Courtesy of Pedro González Casanova Henríquez, Mexico City, México
Location
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional