About this artwork
Early in his career, Diego Rivera enjoyed a brief but sparkling period as a Cubist painter. After years of rigorous art training in Mexico City, he traveled throughout Europe from 1907 to 1910. In l9l2 Rivera settled in Paris, where he befriended other emigré avant-garde artists, such as Amedeo Modigliani and Piet Mondrian. During World War l, he became a leading member of a group of Cubists that included Albert Gleizes, Juan Gris, and Jean Metzinger.
The subject of this portrait is Rivera’s lover at the time, Marevna Vorobëv-Stebelska, a Russian-born painter and writer. Photographs of the sitter, which show her distinctive bobbed hair, blond bangs, and prominent nose, reveal Rivera’s gifts of observation. Seated in an overstuffed armchair, she turns away from the book she holds in her lap, as if momentarily—perhaps angrily—distracted. Vorobëv-Stebelska is stylishly dressed in a gold-brocade bodice, white sleeves, and a dress whose shape hints at a pair of crossed legs. To her right appears a green, faux-marble form that may be a fireplace, and behind her is a schematically rendered window and shutters. In this Synthetic Cubist composition, Rivera used color to suggest spatial recession, making the planes meant to be closer to the viewer brighter than those at further remove. The painting’s somber and rich color harmonies recall the palette of Gris.
Following World War I and the Russian Revolution, Rivera, like many other artists in Paris, rejected Cubism as frivolous and inappropriate for the new age. In 1921 the painter returned to Mexico, which itself had emerged from a decade of revolutionary struggle. There, adopting monumental forms that suited the country’s new political reality, he began to produce work for which he is acclaimed today: paintings, graphics, and, above all, murals depicting Mexican political and cultural life.
- Diego Rivera
- Portrait of Marevna
- c. 1915
- Oil on canvas
- Signed lower left: D. M. R.
- 145.7 × 112.7 cm (57 3/8 × 44 3/8 in.)
- Alfred Stieglitz Collection, gift of Georgia O'Keeffe
- © 2018 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York