The Totonac Civilization or the Jaguar People in Veracruz — Diego Rivera, 1950. Palacio Nacional de Mexico

Rivera painted fresco series in the National Palace, on the arcaded upper floor of the middle inner courtyard. The subject-matter of Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Mexico (1942–1951) is predominantly pre-Columbian culture, based on his preparatory studies of Mexican pre-colonial codices.

Rivera’s artistic development as a mural-painter is strikingly demonstrated in the three distinct narrative styles of this series in the National Palace. In the murals on the stairwell main and north walls the conception of reality and the historical scheme are conveyed in a unified pictorial language; in those on the south wall, however, a polemical style appears, indicating the artist’s radicalization after his experiences in America. The style of the third phase seen in the murals on the upper floor is markedly more focussed on narrative, and presents pre-colonial societies as in a showcase, as idealized forms of ancestral life.

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