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Diego Rivera Google Logo Commemorates Artist's 125th Birthday

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 12/08/11 10:34 AM ET Updated: 12/08/11 03:16 PM ET

Diego Rivera

Google transformed its homepage logo on December 8 to honor what would have been the 125th birthday of Mexican artist Diego Rivera (December 8, 1886 – November 24, 1957).

Born into a relatively affluent fmaily, Rivera studied painting as a child and moved to Europe to continue his studies as a young man. PBS's "American Masters" biography of the artist describes the lasting impact his European education would have on his artistic future:

Rivera encountered the works of such great masters as Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, and Matisse. Rivera was searching for a new form of painting, one that could express the complexities of his day and still reach a wide audience. It was not until he began to study the Renaissance frescoes of Italy that he found his medium. It was with a vision of the future of the fresco and with a strong belief in public art that Rivera returned to Mexico.

Rivera became famed for his large, colorful fresco murals, which often depicted scenes of everyday Mexican life and reflected his Marxist political beliefs. He was commissioned to adorn large public buildings like schools and government offices with his massive paintings.

Google's doodle honoring Rivera borrows several famous elements from across his portfolio and features a mural-style rendering of the artist hard at work on a sweeping portrayal of Mexico -- from the historic architecture of the country's indigenous people, to the steel frameworks of modern cities rising toward the sky. Toward the center of the doodle are clustered representations of Mexico's diverse population: a peasant laborer, a city laborer, a businessmen, a mother and child, and others. The artist himself can be seen atop a scaffolding at the left-hand side of the doodle. At the lower-right, two female figures observe the mural; one, wearing a green shawl on her shoulders and red flowers woven into her hair, is likely Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo.

Kahlo and Rivera's marriage was a rocky but lasting one. "Notoriously," according to the Frida Kahlo foundation, "both Kahlo and Rivera had fiery temperaments and both had numerous extramarital affairs. The openly bisexual Kahlo had affairs with both men (including Leon Trotsky) and women; Rivera knew of and tolerated her relationships with women, but her relationships with men made him jealous. For her part, Kahlo became outraged when she learned that Rivera had an affair with her younger sister, Cristina. The couple eventually divorced, but remarried in 1940." (Kahlo was honored with her own Google logo on Jul 06, 2010.)

Rivera's trips to the United States were as controversial as they were influential. For example, Rivera's 1933 work for business mogul Henry Ford angered many Americans. Notes the Washington Post, "Rivera was hired by the Ford Motor Co., and his series of politically charged fresco panels was called 'Detroit Industry.' Ultimately, Edsel Ford allowed that it was acceptable for an artist to displease his patron; the work is now recognized as one of Rivera’s masterpieces."

That same year, his commission at Rockefeller Center in New York, however, was deemed unfit for featuring a portrait of the Russian Marxist Vladimir Lenin. The mural was destroyed in what the independently managed Diego Rivera website numbers among the "greatest scandals of art history."

Visit Google.com to view the search giant's nod to Rivera. You can also check out the doodle in the slideshow (below). Click through the slideshow to view some of the most epic Google Doodles ever.

Diego Rivera
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