The preeminent Mexican muralist Diego Rivera pioneered a popular style of heroic realism that addressed contemporary political and social concerns in Mexico and in the United States. With the aim of making Rivera's work more widely available to collectors in North America, Carl Zigrosser, the director of the Weyhe Gallery in New York, encouraged him to make lithographs while he was in the city working on his 1931 retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art. Throughout his career Rivera made only fourteen prints, most of which were lithographs published by the Weyhe Gallery, and a single linoleum cut he made in Mexico City in 1938.
In 1921, working in Mexico with the support of the Mexican government, Rivera began to develop his mural style aimed at the proletariat. During the early 1930s, his popularity in the United States led to major mural commissions in New York, Detroit, and San Francisco. This lithograph, printed in New York, is based on a detail from a fresco cycle at the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, depicting the history of Mexico. In it Rivera shows the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Zapata, who became a national icon, is shown holding the reins of a horse whose aristocratic owner lies dead at his feet. A group of campesinos (peasants) wearing white dress shirts follow him. This scene from the fresco was repainted by Rivera for his 1931 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art and is now in the Museum's permanent collection. The lithograph was made a year later, along with a group of four others depicting details from another of his celebrated mural cycles.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Harper Montgomery, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 126.