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Diego Rivera

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Liberation of the Peon, 1931

About the Artwork

During the revolution in Mexican society in the 1920s and 1930s, Diego Rivera was a leader among the core group of artists dedicated to creating a radical public art. Monumental murals for government buildings, designed for the public, were ideally suited to these artists' socialist commitment to presenting a visual "people's history" of Mexico. For his mural commissions, Rivera revived the Italian Renaissance fresco tradition of applying pigments ground in water to a moist lime plaster wall surface. Liberation of the Peon is one of eight moveable frescoes that he created for his exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1931, which traveled to Philadelphia. Based on an image in the large decorative scheme Rivera painted for the Ministry of Public Education in Mexico City in 1923, it shows four revolutionary soldiers releasing a dying peasant from the stake where he had been tied and flogged. In an allusion to Christ's descent from the cross the soldiers lower the naked, lacerated body and prepare to wrap it in a red robe. The tragedy is made more stark by the staring eyes of the horses, innocent witnesses to oppression. John B. Ravenal, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 322

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