Mexican Painter Diego Rivera: Passionate and Volatile Husband to Frida Kahlo

Diego Rivera, full name Diego Maria de la Concepcion Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodriguez, was a prominent Mexican artist whose large wall works were well-known by those passionate about art, and still are today.  Born in 1886, Rivera played an integral role in establishing the Mexican Mural Movement in Mexican art, and met Frida Kahlo in 1922, whom he married in 1929.  The marriage lasted just five short years; the two separated in 1934 and divorced in 1938, although they would remarry just two years later.

Portrait of the Young Girl Elenita Carrillo Flores, 1952 Oil on canvas
Flower-Festival-1925-Oil-on-canvas
Flower-Festival-1925-Oil-on-canvas

Rivera was considered by many to be the greatest Mexican painter of the twentieth century.  Credited with reintroducing fresco painting (mural paintings on fresh plaster), his works became popular among the people, often on display in universities and other public places.  Passionate about politics, art, and women, Rivera possessed radical political views, joining the Mexican Communist Party in 1922 and participating in the founding of the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, painters, and Sculptors.  Rivera was a passionate, volatile man in many aspects of his life, including his relationship with and marriage to Frida Kahlo, perhaps the most loved of the many women in his life.

After marrying Frida (who was 15 years Rivera’s junior), the couple’s home in San Angel was actually two homes connected by a bridge.  The two passionate artists initially met in Mexico City in 1922 when Frida attended the National Preparatory School, and would not reconnect until six years later when they began dating.  During their two marriages, Diego and Frida endured a passionate, volatile, and tumultuous relationship, much of it due to Frida’s health issues and Diego’s lust for other women.

Diego had many affairs throughout the years, one of them with Frida’s sister Cristina in 1934; Diego wasn’t the only one with a wandering eye, however, as Frida had an affair in 1937 with Leon Trotsky.  Diego was married three times other than to Frida, although he did say, “If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her.  Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait.”  A doctor once diagnosed Diego as being “unfit” for monogamy, however upon her death in 1954 Diego wrote, “I realized that the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida.”

While fidelity was always an issue in the marriages between Frida and Diego, there is no doubt that the two shared a passion not only for painting and art, but for each other.

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