Diego Rivera's "La Siesta"

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Museum Report: Diego Rivera's "La Siesta"

On Tuesday, November 2, 2004 I attended the San Antonio Museum of Art. The painting that left the most lasting impression was Diego Rivera's "La Siesta." The painting, a "snapshot" of indigenous Mexican life, had the biggest reaction because of my Mexican background. I also chose this painting because Diego Rivera was a Mexican artist.

Diego Rivera went through many artistic phases during his life and in his later years, Rivera focused his art works on the native culture of Mexico. This reoccurring theme can be seen in his painting "La Siesta." The reason that Rivera decided to place such emphasis on the Mexican culture was not only because it was self-satisfying for him but also to educate foreigners about the beauty behind his culture. He also wanted to inform others that there is a lot of arduous and laborious work that the ingenious people must do to stay alive. Although in this painting Rivera shows the leisurely side of Mexican's lives, with the mother and her children taking a "siesta" or nap. He also believed that the "popular style" art works that he created about everyday life would be more meaningful to his culture than the abstract techniques that were being used in Europe at the time.

Rivera, born in 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico is one of the best known Mexican artists of the 20th century. During his adolescent years, Rivera studied at the San Carlos Academy in Mexico City. At age 21 Rivera was given a governmental scholarship to study in Spain. Rivera later on lived in Paris where his circle of friends included many intellectuals and artists. In 1921 Rivera returned to Mexico, where he took a government job to create several public murals. Rivera was labeled the father of the Muralist Movement because of these works. Later on in his life Rivera led the Social Realist style that helped him connect with his fellow Mexicans.

The painting "La Siesta" was created by Rivera in 1926 and the canvas used has dimensions of 21 ½ by 29 inches. The painting is of an ingenious Mexican mother and her three children, including a baby, taking a nap. The mother is dressed in a brown top and a pink skirt. In her arms is her baby who is wrapped in a blue-green blanket. Her daughter is wearing a white shirt and a long yellow skirt. Both women have long braided hair, with the mother's hair extending to her lower back. The son, who is obviously younger than the girl, is wearing a long, dress-like white garment and is resting his head on a pink pillow. In his hand is a white toy horse with a pink, yellow and orange saddle. All the family members are on a light green blanket, with the son and daughter both laid out on it. It seems that they are in the corner of a room with light blue walls and a dirt floor. From the description it is apparent that Rivera used many colors but all of them being very light, which gives a friendly and warming feeling to the audience. During this time Rivera was older and in the artistic phase of including light colors. All three of the primary colors were used, either directly or in a slight variation. The colors were yellow, pink (a variation of red) and light blue. Rivera used these colors to attract people's attention to his painting. Also, the secondary colors orange and green were found in the art piece. The yellow, orange and pink used are warm colors that made the image jump out at the spectator. Also, the cool colors used, like blue and green made the observer's eyes focus on the background.Although lots of pastel, light colors were used, the room had unclear lighting. The reason for this would be because the mother and her children are trying to take a nap in the middle of the day and therefore do not want the light to bother them. The unclear light invokes in the audience to conjure up emotions, which could include the longing to be a child once again in the company of their parent.

When the spectator is looking at the painting, they are...
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