Diego Rivera was born on December 13, 1886 in the mountain town of Guanajuato in Mexico. He started his path towards an artist when at age eleven he attended the San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts. However, his real teacher was Jose Posada, whose printmaking shop stood near the school.
At the age of twenty Rivera won a traveling scholarship and spent the next three years in museums and painting in Europe. In 1910 he returned to Mexico and became involved in the revolution that ended with the forcing out of office the aging dictator Diaz. In 1911 his scholarship was renewed and he sailed for Europe again, this time for a period of ten years. In Paris, Rivera met a young Russian blonde named Angeline Beloff, his first common-law wife; from her he learned the Russian language and from her friends he learned all about Marxism. He also learned about Cubism and Picasso.
A trip to Italy gave Rivera a chance to study Giotto, Uccello and Andrea del Castagno. In 1922 he returned again to Mexico and joined forces with two other artistic revolutionaries, Siqueiros and Orozco. The three formed a government-backed syndicate of artists who changed from easel painting to working on murals. In the next decade Rivera did what was probably his greatest work: frescoes in Cuernavaca and in Chapingo, where his favorite model was Guadalupe Marin, a tempestuous olive-skinned beauty. They married and had two children.
In 1927 Rivera decided it was time for a visit of homage to Moscow; he met and sketched Stalin for which he was very honored. Later he did a complete reversal about Stalin. When he got home from Moscow he met and married a pretty art student named Frida Kahlo. They moved into her home in Coyoacan, a Mexico City suburb. Among their many guests was Leon Trotsky who lived with them for two years while he wrote a biography of Stalin, his enemy. Kahlo died in 1954 and not long after, Rivera married again; this time he married Emma Hurtado, a magazine publisher who also had a gallery dealing in Rivera paintings.
Rivera was notorious for his murals in which he openly expressed his opinions on many controversial subjects of the day. The most notorious of these was the one in Rockefeller Center which was reduced to dust by the Rockefeller family after Rivera refused to remove the painting of Lenin uniting the workers. Rivera also worked hard at painting society portraits by the dozen; he did very popular flower paintings, nudes and typical Mexican scenes. Rivera was very successful during his career as an artist, and was known as being a very generous person who gave away most of the money he earned to those less fortunate than he. Diego Rivera died in Mexico City on November 24, 1957.