When Diego met Pablo, in Los Angeles

Editorial Staff Exhibitions

The Poet by Pablo Picasso, 1912. Kunstmuseum Basel, gift of Maja Sacher-Stehlin, deposited by the commune of inhabitants of the canton Basel-Stadt, 1967, © Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photograph Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland/De Agostini Picture Library/Bridgeman Images.

In the mature decades of their artistic careers, when Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera sought to create the new they turned to the ancient. Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time, the crowd-­pleasing exhibition currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, explores the ways in which the two titans of twentieth-­century creativity set aside abstraction and ultimately found inspiration in the classical art and mythology of their homelands.

Sailor at Lunch by Diego Rivera, 1914. Museo Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato, Marte R. Gómez Collection, INBA, © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photograph courtesy Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, Guanajuato.

The show’s curators, Michael Govan and Diana Magaloni, guide viewers along the timelines of the two artists’ lives. Both received traditional training in painting and drawing, both thrived in the avant-­garde of Paris in the early 1900s, and both embraced the formal experiments of cubism. They met in 1914 and enjoyed a brief friendship that became a rivalry when Picasso stole some ideas from Rivera.

Three Women at the Spring by Picasso, 1921. Museum of Modern Art, NY, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan D. Emil, © Estate of Pablo Picasso/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, digital Image © Museum of Modern Art/licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY.

What came next forms the core of the exhibition: an examination of how each artist dealt with the aftermath of war—the bloody Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1920 in Rivera’s case; the carnage of World War I in Picasso’s. Each, in a search for a sense of order and stability, drew on the art of the antiquity of his culture. Picasso looked to the sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome; Rivera to the art and iconography of the Aztecs and other pre-Columbian peoples. The rest is art history.

The Flowered Canoe by Rivera, 1931. Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño, Mexico City, © Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society(ARS), New York, photograph © Schalkwijk/Art Resource, NY.

Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time • Los Angeles County Museum of Art • to May 7 • lacma.org