Born in 1886, muralist, painter and political activist Diego Rivera was one of Mexico’s most influential 20th-century artists. His daughter, Guadalupe Rivera Marín, has compiled recollections of her father and personal commentaries on 13 of his works of art in My Papa Diego and Me/Mi papá Diego y yo, due from Children’s Book Press in September. This bilingual picture book reproduces paintings and murals featuring children, who were the focus of many of Rivera’s paintings.
The book project grew out of the longtime friendship between Marín and Lorraine García-Nakata, publisher and executive director of Children’s Book Press. "One day Lorraine called me into her office and said she was thinking of asking Guadalupe if she was interested in doing a book with us about her father," explains executive editor Dana Goldberg. "So we talked with her about what kind of legacy piece she might want to do—what memories of her father she’d like to leave behind."
The idea struck a chord with Marín, now a resident of Cuernavaca, Mexico, who has written books for adults about her father and about artist Frida Kahlo, his second wife. "In our time, my father has been known as one of the greatest painters, and certainly one of the greatest muralists, in the world," she says. "But many people don’t know about my father as a human being, and through this book I wanted to let people know that my father really loved children. He paid so much attention to children in his work, Mexican children especially, because he found that they were the future of the country."
Gualalupe Rivera as a child (l.), with her father, Diego Rivera, and her sister Ruth.
Marín sent images of an assortment of her father’s paintings to Children’s Book Press, from which the publisher made the final selection. Several of the works in the book are portraits of the author herself as a child, including one in which she holds an orange. She recalls posing for her father for this portrait and remembers that he became annoyed when she ate the orange before he could finish the painting. "I was so young at the time and didn’t realize what it meant to pose for him," she says. "I never knew my father was such a great painter. He was just my father. Finally, when I was a teenager, I began to understand how important he was and I started to understand him and to be interested in how he created art."
"The process of making this book was unusual for our company, since we for the most part publish fiction and poetry," Goldberg says. Marín traveled to San Francisco to visit the publisher’s office, where staff members taped an interview with her. "It was a wonderful, personal sharing of her memories of her father and of the stories behind the various paintings," says the editor, who pared down the transcriptions of the interview to shape the text of the book. Marín then provided the Spanish translation.
Goldberg praises the contributions of the book’s designer, Lorena Piñon, creative director of Pinwheel Design; and of employees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with whom she consulted on the book project. "This was a true team effort," she says. "This is one of those books that took a village to make."
My Papa Diego and Me: Memories of My Father and His Art/Mi papá Diego y yo: Recuerdos de mi padre y su arte by Guadalupe Rivera Marín. Children’s Book Press (PGW, dist.), $17.95 ISBN 978-0-89239-228-5