Legenda is launching its new Visual Culture series with what we hope we can say is an ambitious slate of five opening titles. This is number 3, and the others are here, here, here, and here; you can also read the series announcement or meet the editors.
So, then, we are pleased to present Lucy O'Sullivan's book on Rivera and Rulfo. Diego Rivera, born 1886, and Juan Rulfo, born 1917, are clearly figures from two quite different generations, but both became iconic as Mexico stablised itself after a generation of revolutions, and sought to define itself anew. Rivera was mainly a painter, though often of murals. Rulfo was mainly a photographer, though also a novelist and screen-writer. Both were funded, in part, by north American patronage, though in very different ways. The Rockefeller family collected Rivera's work: indeed, The Rivals, a commission by Abby Rockefeller in 1931 as a wedding gift for his son, is now thought to have the record as the highest auction-priced painting by any Latin American artist. ($9.76 million, in case you're wondering.) Twenty years later, it was the Rockefellers again who funded Juan Rulfo's early work as a writer, and that also turned out to be a shrewd investment in talent. The two books he wrote while living off their grant went on to sell over a million copies in the USA alone.
But Rulfo and Rivera were united not simply by their talent and by their international prominence as cultural ambassadors for the new Mexican republic: they were also both artists fascinated by the human body, and both artists for whom the boundaries of genre and medium were always fluid. Lucy's book is, perhaps a little surprisingly, the first to compare them, a project which seems long overdue.
Diego Rivera and Juan Rulfo is due out in our Visual Culture series in late 2021.