Notes on Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Latin American Muralism

(1910 – Present)


Muralism is the term used to categorize the creation of a mural as a work of art placed on a wall or ceiling and applied by a varied of techniques. Often, but not always, a mural artwork is integrated into architectural spaces that use the construction space as an element of the mural itself. Techniques include fresco (water soluble paints with a lime wash) and marouflage (placing a painted on canvas onto a wall with an adhesive).

Murals of various kinds have existed from prehistory to the present. Notice, for example the cave art at Altamira, Spain (18,000 bce), and Lascaux, France (24,000 bce). Egyptian tombs (3000 bce), Minoan (Greek, 1650 bce), and Roman palaces (200 bce to 400 ce). In the Middle Ages murals were painted into dry plaster on monastery and church walls. One of the greatest of European muralists was Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican.

Perhaps most significant, is the explosion of muralism in the twentieth-century art movement in Mexico, which movement is known as Mexican muralism. Many Mexican artists created murals, especially from the end of the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) until the present. It is important to recall that muralism was a major feature of pre-Columbian Mexico and Mesoamerica from the Mayas to the Aztecs. Furthermore, Mexican muralism spread to Chicano art in the 1960s to the present and to other places throughout Latin America. In Mexico, mural art was centered on progressive social, political, and educational purposes in a manner not dissimilar to the purpose of stained glass windows in European Gothic cathedrals. Hence, Latin American murals have been—deliberately—controversial. Among many examples, in 1948, the Colombian government commissioned Santiuago Martínez Delgado to create a mural about the Cúcuta Congress in 1821 at which Simón Bolívar was elected president of the newly founded nation of Gran Colombia. This mural, which angered liberals, and the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, the liberal presidential candidate, were the fuse that resulted in the bogotazo of 1948 in Bogotá, a massive riot that ended with vast destruction of the capital itself.

Diego Rivera


1886-1957       For comments about his life and a digital show of a selection of his works, see: => Diego Rivera Show.



Frida Kahlo


1907-1954       For comments about her life and a digital show of a selection of her works, see: => Frida Kahlo Show.



Other Mexican Muralists: 1910-1950


1920-1973       For murals by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1973), Orozco, and Diego Rivera in the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) in Mexico City, see: => Bellas Artes.

                        For murals by Juan O'Gorman on the outside walls of the library building at Mexico's Autonomous University (UNAM), see: => Juan O'Gorman.


Alberto Gálvez Suárez


1905-1973       For comments about her life and a digital show of a selection of his Guatemalan murals, see: => Gálvez Suárez Tour.