Diego Rivera (Mexican, 18861957)
Oil on canvas; 23 7/8 x 19 1/2 in. (60.6 x 49.5 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 (49.70.51)
© 2011 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS)
This painting is an excellent example of Diego Rivera's fully developed Cubist idiom, which he began to practice in Paris early in 1914 and continued to explore until 1917. Initially he created paintings that were stylistically close to those of the "minor" Cubists: Albert Gleizes, Henri Le Fauconnier, and Jean Metzinger. Beginning in 1914, however, the dominant influences became those of the Spaniards Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso.
Rivera's interest in contrasting textures and his use of pointillist technique is clearly manifest throughout the composition. Yet his Synthetic Cubist forms are more ornamental, the color is brighter and livelier, and the contrast fuller. Additionally, he has introduced elements of Mexican iconography, such as the cigar box with a tiny label, highlighting the partial letters BENITO JUA with a miniature Mexican landscape inscribed into it.
This is one of the three most important works the artist executed in 1915, and one of three paintings acquired by the famous photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz.