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Sugar Cane

José Diego María Rivera, Mexican, 1886 - 1957

Date:
1931

Medium:
Fresco

Dimensions:
57 1/8 x 94 1/8 inches (145.1 x 239.1 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

* Great Stair Hall, first floor

Accession Number:
1943-46-2

Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Cameron Morris, 1943

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Label:
This panel illustrates the operation of a sugar plantation in the southern state of Morelos, Mexico, during the Spanish colonial period. In creating the scene, Rivera adapted an image he had formerly made for a mural cycle at the Palace of Cortez in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Sugar Cane was specifically commissioned for the Museum of Modern Art's Diego Rivera exhibition of 1931.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    This portable fresco panel was painted by Rivera in New York on the occasion of his exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which opened in December 1931 and later traveled to Philadelphia. A leading figure in the Mexican mural movement, Rivera sought to illustrate Mexican history, before and after the revolution of 1911–17, in a direct and straightforward way that could be understood by the masses. To achieve this aim, the muralists had revived the Italian Renaissance fresco tradition of applying pigments ground in water to a moist lime plaster wall surface. Rivera wanted the North American public to see the art form for which he was most famous, and since his murals were permanently situated on the walls of public buildings in Mexico, he decided to paint a series of movable frescoes. The artist was given a spacious studio in the Museum of Modern Art building and completed eight fresco panels during his stay there. Sugar Cane is based on one of the artist's murals at the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, completed in 1930.

    Sugar Cane depicts the harsh reality of life for ordinary Mexicans in the southern state of Morelos before Emiliano Zapata led the agrarian revolution there in 1911. Rivera contrasts the languid pose of the sugar plantation owner, indolently stretched in his hammock in the background, with the backbreaking work carried out by the peasant laborers, watched over by a menacing foreman on horseback. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 67.


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