The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This article reproduces some of Diego Rivera’s observations regarding his work, based on a number of sketches done in Paris and Tehuantepec “in which the penetrating sensibility of the artist may be discerned.” These sketches would later be used for the murals on the walls of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, the SEP [Ministry of Public Education], and the School of Agronomy in Chapingo. Further on, specific mention is made of Rivera’s working plan for the Anfiteatro Simón Bolívar at the ENP, which may be noted for its philosophically oriented concerns: “ . . . the artist chose an abstract theme: the relations between man and the elements . . . .” The “signs of the Word, beginning of everything . . . and Man, the entity previous to the masculine and feminine” are mentioned here. There are also allusions to the “original, primordial energy” as well as depictions of the serpent, knowledge, fable, tradition, erotic poetry, and symbols of prudence, justice, fortitude, and science. The article ends with the following appreciation: “Despite the painter’s effort to express genuine Mexican beauty in his characters, the work suffers—both in its execution as well as in its own internal logic—from influences that are too strong and that slowly begin to disappear in subsequent works the artist has executed.”
In some sense this text reveals the self-sanctioning role of Diego Rivera (1886–1957), in that it offers an evaluation of the formal quality of the work as well as its aesthetic content. The mural La creación [Creation] was executed between 1922 and 1923 and this article is dated years later, in 1926. These a posteriori observations reveal the ideological program of the Minister of Public Education (SEP) José Vasconcelos (1882–1959), and had a special bearing upon the philosophical concepts that Rivera articulated in his mural commissions of the 1920s. This mural, done in encaustic painting, contains an iconography that was not easy to interpret, given its theosophical symbols and emblems. In these statements made to the newspaper, Rivera tried, in a contradictory manner, to disengage himself from the State’s discourse and wished to lend a “simple” and personal quality to his first mural: “ . . . we are not talking about the false, bourgeois official painting that fills the walls of palaces and town halls all over the world,” he said, as he enveloped his work and its subject matters with a supposedly “genuine Mexican beauty.” Nevertheless, the work itself could not help but exhibit its spiritualist content as well as the complex link between both the artist himself and Vasconcelos’s specific commission.