1886-1957 | Mexican
Tehuana con batea
Signed “D Rivera” (lower right)
Graphite on cream wove paper
A rebel against the traditional school of painting, Diego Rivera is revered as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. Tehuana con batea, completed by Rivera in 1922, represents a glimpse into the artist’s process through a powerful graphite-on-paper sketch. Rivera’s thoughtful marks outline a Tehuana — a woman from the isthmus of Tehuantepec and likely a descendant of the Zapotec indigenous peoples. The woman is rendered with a kind of totemic solidity, accented by the block-like forms of her clothing and the strength of her stance. Her arms reach upwards as she carries a basket atop her head. Although highly stylized, the work retains a narrative element that was important to the artist’s output — telling the stories of the native peoples of Mexico.
Composed in 1922, this drawing dates from a pivotal moment in the artist’s career. It marked the painting of his first significant mural, Creation, in the Bolívar Auditorium of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, the first of many government-sponsored murals he would undertake over the next three decades. Later in the year, Rivera founded the Revolutionary Union of Technical Workers, Painters and Sculptors, and joined the Mexican Communist Party. The public mural projects reflected his communist politics in historical contexts. Aside from the often-controversial reactions they received, these works focused on the working-class “everyman” of Mexico and reflected the folk ideals that were familiar and respected within the native community.
In addition to the rarity of this plaque due to its unique perspective, Tehuana con batea has a notable provenance, having been owned by celebrated Museum of Modern Art staff member Patricia Dowd Whitman. Remembered fondly for building relationships with donors and artists including Dorothea Rockburne and Tom Otterness over her thirty-three years at the institution, she served as Director of the Contemporary Arts Council at MoMA from 1990 until her retirement in 2007. A remarkable drawing with provenance, Tehuana con batea is one-of-a-kind.
Born in Guanajuato City, Mexico in 1886, Diego Rivera showed a talent for drawing at a very young age. He began his formal art education at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico. When he moved to Paris in 1907 to live and work with the great gathering of artists in Montparnasse, he was exposed to the burgeoning of Cubism, and fully embraced this new school of thought. His works attracted the attention of the world’s most prestigious art patrons, including Nelson Rockefeller, for whom he painted a controversial mural in 1934. While both his personal and artistic lives were at times tumultuous, it is his artistic vision and compassion for his homeland and people that have formed the legacy of this incredible figure.
Paper: 12 7/8" high x 8 3/8" wide
Frame: 20 1/2" high x 15 3/8" wide x 1 3/8" deep
Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, New York
Patricia Dowd Whitman, New York
By descent to her estate, 2017