Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Diego Rivera

"Man at the Crossroads" begun in 1933 for the Rockefeller Center in New York City, was removed after a furor erupted in the press over a portrait of Vladimir Lenin. Look right under the upper right wing, or is it a propeller. . .

E.B. White

I Paint What I See

"'What do you paint, when you paint on a wall?'
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
'Do you paint just anything there at all?
'Will there be any doves, or a tree in fall?
'Or a hunting scene, like an English hall?'

'I paint what I see,' said Rivera.

'What are the colors you use when you paint?'
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
'Do you use any red in the beard of a saint?
'If you do, is it terribly red, or faint?
'Do you use any blue? Is it Prussian?'

'I paint what I paint,' said Rivera.

'Whose is that head that I see on the wall?'
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
'Is it anyone's head whom we know, at all?
'A Rensselaer, or a Saltonstall?
'Is it Franklin D.? Is it Mordaunt Hall?
Or is it the head of a Russian?

'I paint what I think,' said Rivera.

'I paint what I paint, I paint what I see,
'I paint what I think,' said Rivera,
'And the thing that is dearest in life to me
'In a bourgeois hall is Integrity;
'However . . .
'I'll take out a couple of people drinkin'
'And put in a picture of Abraham Lincoln;
'I could even give you McCormick's reaper
'And still not make my art much cheaper.
'But the head of Lenin has got to stay
'Or my friends will give the bird today,
'The bird, the bird, forever.'

'It's not good taste in a man like me,'
Said John D.'s grandson Neslon,
'To question an artist's integrity
'Or mention a practical thing like a fee,
'But I know what I like to a large degree,
'Though art I hate to hamper;
'For twenty-one thousand conservative bucks
'You painted a radical. I say shucks,
'I never could rent the offices-----
'The capitalistic offices.
'For this, as you know, is a public hall
'And people want doves, or a tree in hall
'And though your art I dislike to hamper,
'I owe a little to God and Gramper,
'And after all,
'It's my wall . . .'

'We'll see if it is,' said Rivera.

from ~
The New Yorker, May 20, 1933

Description of the Art Work

A Mural portrait commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller for Rockefeller Center in New York City. Its subject was to be "human intelligence in control of the forces of nature." The 63 feet by 17 feet mural contained in the center a portrait of Lenin.

Description of incident

"On May 22, 1933, Rivera was called down from his scaffold where he was still working on the unfinished mural. He was handed a check for $14,00, the balance of his fee, and informed that he had been dismissed. Within 30 minutes the mural had been covered by tarpaper and a wooden screen.

Results of incident

"Seeking a compromise, Rockefeller suggested that Rivera should replace Lenin with some unknown face; the artist offered to add Lincoln but refused to expunge Lenin. Charged with willful propagandizing, he declared only that "All art is propaganda." Since he had accepted his payment, Rivera was unable to force the Rockefellers to exhibit or even keep his work. The mural was subsequently removed from the wall..." The Encyclopedia of Censorship, J. Green, Facts on File, pg. 254

Source: The Encyclopedia of Censorship, J. Green, Facts on File


the rockefeller plaza mural

frida kahlo & diego rivera

diego rivera working on the mural