Today is Cinco de Mayo. This Mexican holiday seems a good day to return again to the art of Diego Rivera. He is one of the Culture Vulture favorite artists, so any excuse to discuss him and his relationship with the Rockefeller family is greatly appreciated.
One of Rivera’s masterpieces is 1914’s Portrait of Two Women which is part of the permanent collection of the Arkansas Arts Center. The official name is Dos Mujeres. It is a portrait of Angelina Beloff and Maria Dolores Bastian. The former was Rivera’s first wife.
This oil on canvas stands six and a half feet tall and five and a half feet wide.
Influenced by cubists such as Picasso, Rivera adopted fracturing of form, use of multiple perspective points, and flattening of the picture plane. Yet his take on this style of painting is distinctive. He uses brighter colors and a larger scale than many early cubist pictures. Rivera also features highly textured surfaces executed in a variety of techniques.
The painting was a gift to the Arkansas Arts Center by Abby Rockefeller Mauzé, sister of Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. At the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center, James Rorimer, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, remarked several times to Arts Center trustee Jeane Hamilton that the Met should have that piece. Jeane politely smiled as she remarked, “But we have it.”
Of all her brothers, Abby was closest to Winthrop. The other brothers, at best ignored, and at worst, antagonized the two. Given the complicated relationship of Rivera with members of the Rockefeller family, it is not surprising that if Abby were to have purchased this piece, she would donate it to a facility with close ties to Winthrop. (Though the Rockefeller brothers had Rivera’s mural at Rockefeller Center destroyed, he maintained a cordial relationship with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller — well as cordial as an anti-social Communist could be with the doyenne of capitalist NYC Society.)
The Arkansas Arts Center has several other works of art in their collection with ties to Mexico. Some are by Mexican artists. Others are inspired by Mexico. They have several by Elsie Fruend depicting scenes in Mexico.