The murals of Diego Rivera

Dalrymple’s April New Criterion piece relates his visit to a Diego Rivera exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. His description of watching two groups of students undergo political indoctrination will strike a chord with many readers. And he makes this point about Rivera and the need to segregate style and content: 

The pictures of Diego Rivera present us with a tension between two categories, the aesthetic and the ideological. From the aesthetic point of view he was a powerful and original artist—original here in the good sense of creating something both new and worthwhile. His ideology, however, was crude and schematic, though he was not without real feeling for the suffering of the ordinary people of Mexico, suffering that he conveys with sufficient truth in his art that he makes us feel it. (It is important not to let anti-schematizing ideology become a schematizing ideology in itself.) It was his obvious artistic merits, after all, that made him the cynosure of rich collectors.

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