Palacio de Gobierno

Opposite the Southeast corner of the Zócolo, between the Juárez and Morelos Gardens you will find the Palacio de Gobierno, which faces the Plaza de Armas. The State Government Palace, a three story building with a tezontle facade was built between 1955 and 1969.

Inside the structure you will find murals by the famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera. Rivera’s strong social interests, his sympathy with the common man, and his knowledge of his country’s struggles are summed up in the breathtaking murals. These paintings are an excellent reason to visit the Palacio de Gobierno while in Cuernavaca.

If a writer on modern art were asked to name the ten outstanding modern artists of the present time it is practically certain that whoever the other nine might be, one of them would be the Mexican painter, Diego Rivera. An artist of international reputation, Rivera knew three periods in his career. The first was the European period, or specifically, a Parisian one. The second and third have seen the execution of his murals far institutions in America and Mexico, which have gone forward together and do not follow in chronological sequence. We began to hear of Rivera first as one of the leading exhibitors among the group of French modern artists including Picasso, Bracque, Derain, Gris, Metzinger, Dufy, Matisse and others who in the very early days of modernism used to be called the wild ones, although the term seems ridiculous today, now that all of these artists are represented in museums, and great collections are built up just to represent them.

Rivera was born at Guanajuato in 1886. His first art training was at the San Carlos Academy and at the age of seventeen he left his native country for Spain. He travelled extensively in Europe and finally became associated with the most significant group of French artists of our time. He returned to Mexico after the triumph of the Revolution and soon became recognized as a leader in mural painting. His first work of this kind, which was executed in encaustic, was the decoration for the Bolivar Amphitheater of the National Preparatory School. He painted the frescoes in the Ministry of Public Education, also the stairway in the Agricultural School at Chapingo, 1930-1936, and the murals and decorations in the Governor’s Palace at Cuernavaca. His strong social interests, his sympathy with the common man, and his knowledge of his country’s struggles were all summed up in one particularly striking work, the paintings for the monumental stairway in the National Palace in Mexico City.

Rivera received a great deal of recognition throughout his life. In spite of the fact that a few people remember him only for the notoriety which the removal of the great panel he executed for one of the buildings in Rockefeller Center brought him, his reputation with serious students is not affected one way or the other by the fact that on that occasion he introduced the figure of the elder Rockefeller in no flattering light. His real relation to mural decoration is based securely on a series of extensive works. Some of his best decorations are in the stock exchange and the School of the Fine Arts in San Francisco. His murals are also seen in the Detroit Institute of Arts and in the New Workers’ School of the City of New York. In December, 1931, a large retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which was probably the largest “one-man show” ever given for a living artist.

Rivera was undoubtedly not only one of the leading Mexican artists, but was also a leader in an international sense. Because of the respect with which every phase of his art was received in all centers of art, it was a significant triumph for the Fifth Floor Galleries at Gimbel’s to be able to present. when a large selection of the latest water colors and drawings by Rivera in conjunction with the work of his almost equally well known contemporary, Jose Clemente Orozco. Rivera’s water colors were not the usual modest little sketches which generally appear in water color exhibitions. He used large sheets of paper, about the size an artist would select for an oil painting. He was essentially a mural artist and thought in terms of space. His water colors, even where the subjects are slight, are filled with the feeling of the third dimension. His colors are clear and fresh, and he was fond of selecting a few tones for his palette and, by using modulations of the same color and a bit of contrast, working out something that had an arresting sense of pattern. Outlines were apt to be sketched in freely with crayon or chalk. These water colors and drawings, as may be seen from the subjects illustrated, have a breeziness about them, an effect of having been set down with gusto. The material consists of impressions of the scenes of every day life and every day people. Women washing laundry at Santa Clara, a peon family sitting on the floor for lunch, a street scene with loungers wearing broad brimmed hats-the subject matter were drawn from the life around him and presented without idealization or prettiness, but with a deep, human sympathy. Rivera was an accomplished designer of patterns; he saw things in balances of light and dark, grasped the essentials and let the rest go. There is so strong a racial quality in his art that his paintings seem part and parcel of the soil of Mexico itself.

And beyond the Plaza de Armas, you will find the Palacio de Cortés, now housing the Museo de Cuauhnahuac. These buildings have a magnificent colonial architecture that is beautiful to behold.

Palacio de Gobierno
Main Plaza
Location: Centro Histórico

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About G. William Hood

G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
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