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Diego Rivera: The Detroit Industry Murals Softcover

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By Linda Bank Downs

A beautifully illustrated in-depth study of the most important North American work by the best-known Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera.

Early in the Depression, Diego Rivera (1886–1957) was commissioned with funds from Edsel Ford (the son of automaker Henry Ford) to create a series of murals in the gallery of the Detroit Institute of Arts, giant frescos whose theme would be America’s industrial might. The Detroit Industry fresco cycle was conceived by Rivera as a tribute to the city's manufacturing base and labor force of the 1930s. Rivera studied workers at the Ford plant in nearby Dearborn to produce the murals, twenty-seven panels that Rivera completed in eleven months, April 1932 to March 1933. In addition to the major theme paying homage to the automobile industry, several secondary themes are introduced including technology, transportation, humanity and civilization, nature and life and death. It is considered the finest example of Mexican mural art in the United States, and the artist thought it the best work of his career. 

On April 23, 2014, the Detroit Industry Murals were given National Historic Landmark Status.

This volume studies the astonishing results and gives us a remarkably close look at Diego and his wife, Frida Kahlo.

Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals are one of this country’s greatest treasures. In addition to providing full coverage and analysis of the murals, the book includes chapters on the murals’ planning and antecedents, Rivera’s working methods (which can be read as a primer on frescos), Diego and Frida’s lives for their nine months in Detroit, and the public’s dramatic response to the strong socialist/communist themes in the works.

Also included in the book is a pull out full color poster of both the North and South Wall of Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals. 

Softcover, 202 pages

Dimensions: 7 3/4 x 12 inches

About the Author:
Linda Bank Downs is executive director of the College Art Association. She formerly served as curator of education at the Detroit Institute of Arts and head of education at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

About the artwork:

Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886 - 1957)

Detroit Industry, South Wall, 1932-1933


212 1/2 x 540 inches

Detroit Institute of Arts

Gift of Edsel B. Ford


Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886 - 1957)

Detroit Industry, North Wall, 1932-1933


212 1/2 x 540 inches

Detroit Institute of Arts

Gift of Edsel B. Ford


Product Reviews

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  1. The Story Behind the Walls 5 Star Review

    Posted by on Oct 14th 2015

    The Detroit Industry Murals is an indispensable guide to the Rivera Court frescos. I'm from out of town and have only visited the DIA once, but the photos, illustrations, and historical documents, along with Linda Banks Downs' insights into their history and production, will keep the murals fresh in my mind.

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