Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato but brought up in Mexico City. Celebrated as the founding father of the Mexican Muralist Movement, he was a talented painter with a striking personality and a fondness for debate. In 1907 he went to Europe on a painting scholarship to Madrid, then settled in Paris where he was influenced by Picasso, Bracque and the Futurists.
After seeking refuge in Spain during the First World War Rivera returned to Mexico and began working on monumental scale murals, incorporating elements of Cubism and Constructivism with a touch of Italian and Spanish classicism, and the colours of Mexican popular art. He was very political, a unionist who helped found the Mexican Communist Party. This greatly appealed to Kahlo, who herself as a student, one of the few women at her University, had been very political.
Rivera’s masterpieces, of a very grand scale, are undoubtedly the murals he painted in public buildings. Rivera deliberately chose this route, and it is therefore difficult to give his achievements proper credit in temporary exhibitions outside Mexico. Nevertheless, his easel paintings reveal to a larger extent his talent. In truth, Kahlo excelled as an artist thanks to the support, stimulation and tutelage of Rivera, who was the foremost Mexican painter of his generation.
Kahlo and Rivera met in 1927, when she took some of her paintings to show him as he worked on a commission at the Ministry of Education. They married in 1929, her parents saying it was like the marriage between ‘ an elephant and a dove’. In the 1930s they spent four years in the United States where he worked on several large scale mural commissions in New York, Detroit and San Francisco.