Collection 1880s–1940s

Diego Rivera. Agrarian Leader Zapata. 1931 540

Fresco on reinforced cement in galvanized-steel framework, 7' 9 3/4" x 6' 2" (238.1 x 188 cm). Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund. © 2023 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curator, Beverly Adams: We're looking at Diego Rivera's mural called Agrarian Leader Zapata from 1931.

You have this group of six agricultural workers holding tools and a beautiful white horse set in a lush landscape. Zapata is dressed like a humble plantation worker, with sandals and simple white clothing.

Zapata was one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution, which roughly takes place between 1910 and 1920. It is a large-scale, civil war-like conflict and Zapata becomes a hero because of his cause, which is land reform. Indigenous populations had been dispossessed from their land from the moment of conquest and that's their livelihood, that's their culture, that's their everything. Zapata comes from very humble origins and leads this group of revolutionary fighters to return communal lands. He's assassinated in 1919 and becomes deified and a hero.

After the revolution, after this bloody, decade-long civil war in Mexico, there was this cultural revolution. Indigenism was a cultural movement of artists and intellectuals and writers who are concerned with social justice and inclusion of indigenous peoples within the larger idea of nation. Artists played a super important role in trying to forge this public idea of what the nation should be. And Rivera, most definitely, was one of the most important.