The Last Painting of Diego Rivera

The Watermelons
Oil on Canvas, 1957
Museum Dolores Olmedo Patiño

It is not, of course, a coincidence that Diego Rivera painted watermelons, since he was passionately connected to Frida Kahlo.
Mr. Rivera died of heart failure — the used up watermelon in the front of the painting seems quite appropriately symbolic. Among other things, heart failure involves a collection of fluid around the lungs; watermelons are 92% fluid, the highest amount of water of any fruit.
People with heart failure know their time is limited — Did Mr. Rivera know this was his last painting?

Brief biography (from
Diego Rivera was a talented Mexican painter associated with the muralist movement. A communist, he was often criticized for creating paintings that were too controversial. Along with José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siquieros, he is considered one of the “big three,” most important Mexican muralists. Today he is remembered as much for his volatile marriage to fellow artist Frida Kahlo as he is for his art….

Diego met Frida Kahlo, a promising art student, in 1928; they married the year after. The mixture of the fiery Kahlo and the dramatic Rivera would prove to be a volatile one: they each had numerous extramarital affairs and fought often. Rivera even had a fling with Frida’s sister Cristina. Diego and Frida divorced in 1940 but remarried later the same year.
Although their relationship had been stormy, Rivera was devastated by the death of Frida Kahlo in 1954. He never really recovered, falling ill not long after. Although weak, he continued to paint and even remarried. He died of heart failure in 1957.
Rivera is considered the greatest of the Mexican muralists, an art form which was imitated around the world. His influence is greatly important in the United States: his paintings in the 1930’s directly influenced Franklin Roosevelt’s work programs, and hundreds of American artists began creating public art with a conscience.

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