The Abundant Earth, by Diego Rivera


One of Rivera's most complex and successful mural cycles was painted in the former Jesuit chapel in Chapingo, which served as the auditorium of the Escuela Nacional de Agricultura (now the Universidad Autónoma). The artist devised a programme of 41 fresco panels in which socialist revolution parallels the evolution of nature. The two themes mirror each other along the opposite walls of the chapel, and the images use symbolism drawn from Christian and Aztec cultures, allegorical female figures derived from academic art and modernist montage techniques.

The Abundant Earth is one of the 41 fresco panels, tracing the development of natural growth from seed to flowering plant.

Although Rivera created a vast number of easel works, drawings and prints, which made his fortune as his fame increased, his renown was based on his murals. These displayed a sensibility that was radically different from that of his colleagues in the Mexican mural movement, for he possessed none of Orozco's introversion and lacked Siqueiros's political passion. He was an extrovert with a prodigious facility for painting that stemmed not only from his cosmopolitan training but also from his intellectual openness to mathematics and science as well as the humanities. He was also capable of conceiving art in the context of its historical potential, rather than as a purely personal statement or as a political weapon. Whereas his two colleagues had immediate experience of the human cost of the Revolution, Rivera never experienced the fighting directly, returning to Mexico only when the conflict had abated. For Rivera, injustice was abstract, not concrete; he was therefore not as extreme in his politics and personal opinions as were his colleagues. Although he had a lifelong sympathy with Marxist ideals, he was not psychologically committed to the Communist Party's shifting line, especially when it interfered with art. This led to his exploitation by capitalist interests during the early 1930s. Rivera's art, however, transcends such issues, through his remarkable idiosyncratic fusion of Renaissance, academic, modernist and indigenous Mexican techniques, styles and motifs, and his creation from them of a humanistically and aesthetically responsible socialist iconography.