online book
Xavier Timoteo Martinez
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Mexican War
World War II
Chicano Movement

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Mexican Americans in California:

"The Making of a Fresco"
San Francisco

Diego Rivera's mural, "The Making of a Fresco," is a 40-by-30-foot fresco panel, painted in 1931 on the 1,200-square-foot north wall of the San Francisco Art Institute in the City of San Francisco. The mural has not been altered.

Rivera's "The Making of a Fresco" is the first of two murals the famed, controversial Mexican muralist was commissioned to paint in San Francisco during the 1930s. While he subsequently painted another mural in San Francisco after the Depression, as well as murals in other parts of the United States, the San Francisco Art Institute commission enabled Rivera to enter this country initially. Despite patronage by influential Bay Area architects, artists, sculptors, and art patrons, it took several years to obtain State Department clearance for Rivera to enter the United States.

Rivera's influence on North American muralism during the Depression and on contemporary Chicano/Latino muralism is readily acknowledged by muralists, art historians, and scholars. A master technician in the art of muralism, and the major force behind the revival of mural painting in Mexico, Rivera was also an incisive social critic. His outspoken criticism of Mexican and North American society, often revealed in his murals, made him a controversial figure in art and politics in both countries.

"The Making of a Fresco," also called at times "Workers in Control of Production," sparked controversy less for its theme than for the fact that the commission was awarded to a Mexican muralist who was also a Communist, rather than to a North American painter. Despite opposition from Bay Area artists, as well as from the general public, Rivera completed the Stock Exchange Club and the San Francisco Art Institute murals in 1931.

Rivera included representations of the following people in the central panel of this work: Timothy Pflueger, member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Art Association and architect of the Stock Exchange Club; Arthur Brown, Jr., architect of the California School of Fine Arts; and William Gerstle, San Francisco art patron. Others in the work are Viscount John Hastings, a radical English lord and painter; Clifford Wright, English sculptor; Marion Simpson; Michael Baltekal-Goodman; Albert Barrows, technical and art worker; and Matthew Barnes, artist and actor. Rivera also included a rear-view self-portrait in the center of the mural. That portion of the mural sparked a great deal of controversy.

The Making of a Fresco Mural
"The Making of a Fresco" Mural, San Francisco

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