Materials & Technique

On his first trip to Italy, in 1920, Rivera studied the work of Italian Renaissance masters, paying particular attention to the materials and techniques of fresco painting. He later modernized the medium by synthesizing traditional fresco technique with materials like commercially prepared cement mixtures and synthetic pigments. In an effort to overcome the immobility of murals, by definition fixed on site, Rivera also invented what he called "portable murals"—freestanding fresco panels with a cement and steel backing.

Explore Rivera's distinctive approach to fresco in the two videos below.

Fresco Technique

MoMA Paintings Conservator Anny Aviram describes the technique of fresco painting, using Rivera's Agrarian Leader Zapata as a case study. Archival film footage shows Rivera demonstrating his methods at the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition.

Giornata

The term giornata refers to the area of a fresco that can be completed in a day's work. MoMA Conservator Anny Aviram reveals Agrarian Leader Zapata's three giornate. Archival footage shows Rivera at work in 1939-40.