12 APRIL 1935, Page 38

PORTRAIT OF AMERICA By Diego Rivera The English public has

at last been presented at a moderate price with an adequate series of reproductions of the frescoes of Diego Rivera. The volume, Portrait of America (Allen and Unwin, 12s. 6d.), which has just been published, covers nearly all the works executed in the United States since the artist came there in 1930. The new frescoes are not at first sight as successful as those painted in Mexico a few years earlier. The latter show a sympathy with peasants and an understanding of their aspirations unequalled in any artist except possibly Bruegel, and from the purely pictorial point of view they are completely satisfying. In the American frescoes the artist is tackling a different and far more elaborate problem.. In the. Workers' school. cycle lie has traced the history of the class struggle in America from the time of the colonization to the present -day, and. in the Detroit -and. - Rockefeller Institute series he has presented a picture of modern industry. These subjects, with the quantities of figures and masses of complicated machinery'. which they involve, are more difficult to deal with satisfactorily- -in - monumental painting, and it is miraculous that Rivera should hate forced them into even a not quite complete coherence. It is a characteristic of these frescoes that the artist is successful where he sympathizes with his subject and often fails when he is satirizing or attacking. So, for instance, the figures of the great capitalists are often lifeless caricatures, whereas the negroes being tortured or the workers being • shot doirn are moving and dramatic. But such criticisms of the frescoes in detail do not affect the-essential Tact that Rivera has opened up the possibility of an art in direct ,

contact with active politics and with the life of the people. ' In 'fact' he has done more than open up the possibility ; he has achieVed a series of successes in that art and has shown that once more it is possible to produce good propagandist painting.