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Dreaming With His Eyes Open: A Life of Diego Rivera Hardcover – 1 Nov 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred a Knopf; 1 edition (Nov. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679430423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679430421
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 17.8 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,586,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

In his splendid study of this important 20th-century painter, Patrick Marnham has doggedly hacked his way through the many myths and abundant misinformation about Diego Rivera. (Much of it, admittedly, put about by Rivera himself.) Set mostly in the nightmarish world of post-Russian Revolution communism, Rivera's tortuous artistic, political, and personal lives are stylishly laid bare. The deadly machinations of Stalinists, Trotskyists, and dozens of other variations are patiently explained. Complex cultural strands, particularly in his native Mexico, are subtly drawn out and the personalities vividly brought to life. Trotsky plays his part as does D.H. Lawrence alongside a constantly changing cast of wives and lovers.

Marnham solidly charts the development of the artist as a revolutionary painter and identifies, controversially, his first wife, Lupe, as his chief muse (as opposed to Frida Kahlo whom he married twice). The book also contains some delicious colour plates of his stunning frescos that display better than any words can just what a visionary and powerful painter he was. The facts of Rivera's life have been for too long obscured by the events of the extraordinary times in which he operated and the remarkable circles in which he moved. Dreaming With his Eyes Open tells it how it was. It will surely become the definitive life. --Nick Wroe --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"At last, a full-length biography of the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera. . . "--"London Review of Books --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A central character of the Mexican Renaissance, Rivera's story begins in rural Mexico and traverses the world. From the artist's student days in Paris and his inspiration by Giotto to his commissions by the world's leading industrialists, Patrick Marnham's biography is always engaging, readable and meticulously researched. It was via the medium of the mural that the flower of Rivera's art opened, and a committed member of the Mexican Communist Party, he was paradoxically sought by Edsel Ford and Nelson Rockerfeller to paint murals in Detroit and New York City. The Detroit work represents one his greatest achievements, whilst the New York work was destroyed due to a representation of Lenin that Rivera was reluctant to exclude. In this edition many of his major works are illustrated in colour. His fascinating career involved many friendships and relationships including those with Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Guillaume Appolinaire, Tina Modotti, Leon Trotsky, and most famously Frida Kahlo. A fascinating and recommended insight into Mexican cultural history.
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Format: Hardcover
Marnham does an excellent job from introduction to Rivera the mythical character to building a relationship with Rivera the "comrade" and most importantly with Rivera the man/artist. Written in approachable and enjoyable prose this book firmly places the slippery beast in the context of his life and times.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent and illuminating study of a fascinating character operating at the centre of artistic and political movements. Markham's research is impressive and gives the reader a thorough context for the times Rivera lived through and influenced. It's also generously illustrated.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The many loves of Rivera 6 Jun. 2002
By Enrique Torres - Published on
Format: Paperback
With various books written on the life of Diego Rivera this one is a must have. Anytime a subject is studied, it this case the life of arguably the greatest Mexican muralist, it is worthwhile to have various perspectives before coming to one's own conclusion. In that regard this book is invaluable as the author doesn't give you a softball and is quick to point out the inconsistencies in other versions of the larger than life Diego Rivera's exploits, including his own autobiography. The book itself is a fascinating portrait into the life of the celebrated Mexican muralist's life, beginning with the unusual circumstnances of his youth, his sojourn to Europe and studying art in France, his mingling in the bohemian lfestyle with various artists and intellectuals of his era, including his at times not so friendly rivalry with Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, his return to Mexico, his politics(communist) and the troubles he had since he usually mixed art and politics, his many, many love affairs, his multiple marriages including several to soul mate Frida Kahlo, his association with Trotsky(and his wife), his work in the United States and his later years in Mexico where he remained productive in spite of failing health. It is all here, both the believable and the unbelieveable, meshing together for a fascinating look at a man that could literally charm the pants off of the most beautiful women of the world. Included are two seperate groups of pictures that include rarely seen vintage photographs and color prints of his most famous works. Every now and then I read a book that I want to savor and take my time. Like a special meal or an intimate moment, this book was one that I wanted to savor once I began. I wanted to make it last because it was so enjoyable, knowing that the inevitable consequence of my reading would make it end I almost regretted finishing the book. I took days to read the final chapters in the hope that somehow the experience would not end. I would highly recommend this book to those that are interested in Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Mexican art or history. It is a book that paints more than a picture, it is more like a grand mural that captures the fantastic life of Diego Rivera. This is a highly enjoyable book and an indispensable aid in understanding the complex makeup of one of the true giants of art in the twentieth century.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent, thorough work on a complex and difficult subject. 1 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am finding this an excellent complement to the recent (and also highly readable) biography of photgrapher Tina Modotti, who documented his murals. I've read other Marnham work and find his felicitous style eminently readable. His digressions always provide a useful context for the subject, and his research has been thorough.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Biography of Rivera Around 10 Jan. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There are an endless array of biographies of Diego Rivera, some are good, some are not so good. Some focus on just the life, or just the art, or just the politics. Patrick Marnham tackles every aspect of Rivera with amazing detail and accuracy. He addresses the myths and follows them up with actual fact. His writing shows great respect for the life of Diego Rivera without falling victim to the fables that plague so many other biographers. I use this as the standard by which to judge all other writing about Diego Rivera. You don't need all of the other books, just this one.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rotund Biography Worthy of the Rotund Rivera 23 Sept. 2000
By P. Lopez - Published on
Format: Paperback
Marnham's biography provides a rotund, finely textured portrait worthy of the rotund Rivera. Marnham's Rivera is a technically blessed meta-Mexican eternally adapting his extraordinary gifts and solitary vision to the economic and political exigencies of Europe, Mexico, and the United States. Marnham's Rivera loves only art and as a consequence was - as we all now know - a bad husband, bad father and horrible politician but - as we may not know- never truly a bad man. Marnham is able to write with enormous respect for Rivera without losing his critical edge. For example, throughout the book, Marhnam's continuously tests Rivera's own autobiographical assertions against more conventional notions of truth with amusing irony but without condescension. Marnham never loses sight of Rivera's genius.
The biography contributes fascinating details about Rivera's European years from his studies in Spain to his days/nights as a sometimes participant of the cafe society of the Free Republic of Montparnasse. Likewise, Marnham's discussion of the Rivera/ Kahlo visits to the United States is fascinating. Though this fills in large gaps in Rivera scholarship, my major criticism is that Marnham failed to dedicate comparable effort to Rivera's role in the intellectual currents of post-revolutionary Mexico. For instance, scarce mention is devoted to the contrasts and rivalries between Rivera, and the other notable mutalists of his day, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Marnham also ignores Rivera's artistic legacy in Mexico or the United States. While Rivera did not invent nor perhaps truly even master mural art, Rivera is certainly the premier inspiration for "public" artists on both sides of the border.
For an interesting and literate discussion of Rivera and Mexican muralism, I recommend Octavio Paz, Essays on Mexican Art.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Biography of a Flawed but Great Artist 28 Sept. 2003
By David B Richman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Diego Rivera was born in the magical city of Guanajuato. This fact alone made me pick up this book and then buy it. I visited Guanajuato in 2002 and fell in love with the twisty roads, the Baroque facades of the Templos and the Basilica, the Easter-egg colored houses and the general feeling that one had been dropped down in a 18th Century Spanish town. Rivera left it with his mother at the age of six, but the city of his birth, with its recent mummies and Day of the Dead festivals left its mark on him.
Rivera lived in Mexico City until 1907, when he left for Spain and for the next 15 years lived there and in France. He picked up a common-law wife and then a lover- a portent of things to come. He met and was friends (or sometimes enemies) with some of the greatest artists of the period, including Picasso, Mondrian, Modigliani and Matisse. He worked in classic style until he accepted Cubism, only to move toward Cezanne-style art, and eventually to develop his own style. He eventually became one of the greatest of modern fresco painters. However, his character was far from flawless. He lied about his past often and in different ways, depending on the situation, was not very careful about personal hygiene, and also often ran away from relationships to avoid unpleasant realities.
Rivera joined the Mexican Communist Party (MCP) in 1922. After three failures at having a permanent relationship with a woman, he married the rather obsessional young Communist Frida Kahlo (who was twenty years his junior) in 1929. In that same year he was expelled from the MCP because of various internal party intrigues. He then became friends with the exiled Leon Trotsky, who repaid him by having a short affair with Frida. Frida, to make matters more complicated, was repaying Rivera for his affair with her sister. Because of his association with Trotsky, Rivera was not readmitted to the party again until 1954, after the death of Stalin. This summery only touches on and can hardly do justice to the complicated world of Diego Rivera, one of the most complex of men.
Patrick Marnham presents in this book the convoluted ins and outs of Rivera's life, his many affairs and his association with the art world and the Communist Party in vivid detail.
This is a fascinating study of this very complex and often selfish man who was also a great artist. It is also a window into a very confusing and turbulent time in the history of the World. It is a work that should be read by all interested in understanding this period and the modern world that rose from it.
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