Dreaming With His Eyes Open: A Life of Diego Rivera by Patrick Marnham - review by Isabel Hilton

Isabel Hilton

Gave Mexico a Dream

Dreaming With His Eyes Open: A Life of Diego Rivera


Bloomsbury 370pp £20 order from our bookshop

For a man who is credited with finding a nation’s soul, the great Mexican painter Diego Rivera was no moral giant. For a start, he lied about almost everything – the date, time and circumstances of his birth, his name, his family history, his early life, his achievements and his intentions. He was born on 8 December 1886, or possibly 13 December, in the Mexico of the Porfiriato. His birth, and that of his twin brother, nearly killed his mother, but Diego (to whose list of moral failings must be added an almost pathological lack of filial affection) appropriated this maternal near-death for his own biography. He was christened Diego Maria Rivera, but by the time he was thirty-four, having added a name for each interviewer who happened by, he called himself Diego Maria de La Concepcion Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de Rivera y Barriento Acosta y Rodriguez.

Diego’s twin brother died in infancy, and his mother was never to be consoled. Perhaps Diego’s penchant for dramatic additions to his life story is connected to both these facts. But, although it must have made life difficult for those around him, the creative imagination that he misapplied to the

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