One of the most prominent Mexican painters of all time, Diego Rivera, was commissioned by San Francisco Architect, Timothy Pflueger, to paint a mural for the 1939 / 1040 Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island for the 1940 season of the fair. Fair visitors were allowed to watch Rivera as he painted the mural. The painting is on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art until the summer of 2023. Split up into five panels, I’ll highlight a few of the enormous amount of people and places Rivera included in the mural, identified in the free brochure of the exhibit provided by SFMOMA.
Panel number one depicts images of people and places of Rivera’s native Mexico, real and folklore, some of which I’m not familiar with. #1 are the volcanoes IxtaccihuatI and PopocatepetI to the east of Mexico City. #2 is the Aztec deity, Quetzalcoatl. #3 is the Temples of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec Capital which is now Mexico City.
San Francisco starts to appear in panel number two. #12 is the 450 Sutter Building designed by Timothy Pflueger. #13 is the Bay Bridge. #15 is another Timothy Pflueger San Francisco building, the Pacific Telephone Building on New Montgomery Street. Among other notable historic figures in this panel are #23, George Washington, #24, Thomas Jefferson, and #25, Abraham Lincoln.
At the top right of panel number three is #28, the Golden Gate Bridge. #31 is Frida Kahlo, a beautiful Mexican artist who married Diego Rivera in 1929, was divorced from him in 1939, and remarried Diego in December of 1940, just after completion the mural. #33 is film actress Paulette Goddard helping Diego Rivera himself plant the tree shown in #2. I don’t know if Diego ever actually met Paulette Goddard. Timothy Pflueger gets an honorable appearance in #36.
Panel number four is the most interesting one to me, complete with film stars, villains and San Francisco. Up at the top you’ll see #37, Alcatraz Island, and #38, Treasure Island. In #44 are Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Even though Rivera was a Communist, Stalin was an ally of Hitler when Diego did the painting. In #45 are Jack Oakie and Charlie Chaplin as they appeared in Chaplin’s satire about Hitler, ‘The Great Dictator’. Edward G. Robinson is seen in # 47. Robinson was starring in the 1940 movie ‘Confessions of a Nazi Spy’ at the time of the painting. The evil monster, Heinrich Himmler is in #48. Charlie Chaplin appears again in #49.
Diego Rivera leaves San Francisco in panel number five. Mounts Lassen and Shasta in Northern California are seen in #50. There’s an interesting collection of inventors and industrialists in the closing panel; Henry Ford in #54, Thomas Edison in #55, Samuel Morse in #57, and Robert Fulton in #58