Saturday, 12 January 2013

Lyon's mural art tribute to Mexican artist Diego Rivera

In May 2006 about 140 mural fresco and associated artists met up in Mexico City for their annual convention, and it was during this event that Guadalupe Rivera, widow of Diego Rivera, the celebrated historical, social and political artist and muralist, proposed in a speech that;

"..upon the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Diego Rivera, homage shall be paid to him in Europe by the mural painters of Cité Création."

The result can be seen below in a series of photos I took today here in Lyon of the spectacular mural paintings created in Rivera's honour by Lyon-based mural art specialist association Cité Création. The work consists of three mural paintings on the walls which enclose three sides of a public square, just next to a small park. The central element is this one, applied to the side wall of a building.

Next to this work and on a smaller wall at 90% to it is this rectangular mural.

And the building wall opposite the first one is host to the third and final element.

Each individual panel on the two building wall paintings, as well as the painting on the long rectangular wall, tells a story of a historical event era or phenomenon that Diego Rivera had adressed during his lifetime of painting. To help visitors, Cité Création also painted a pictorial and numbered guide for each wall, accompanied by explanatory text. Here is an example.

For those who don't read French however, I took a few close ups of individual panels and translated the descriptions of some of them. Here is a depiction of a major event in Mexican history. It is on the bottom left of the principal wall. 'Conquest and Christianisation. Scenes of religious conversions, forcible baptism or death for recalcitrants."

Next to it can be seen "The arrival of Hernan Cortés. The priest Pedro Alvarado, nicknamed 'the bloodthirsty redhead', gives back to Cortés the gold he has plundered..."

Over on the opposite, 'yellow' wall is a detail from this painting, bottom left, of "Workers. During the production phase of the Ford V8 engine at the Detroit factory."

On the bottom right of that same wall can be seen this almost Dantesque vision of "Carnival. Denounces the cupidity and corruption which reigns within Mexican politics. Diego Rivera caricatures certain governing figures as animals."

Finally, here's a detail from the rectangular wall. Unfortunately though, dear reader, I forgot to take a photo of the texts for that wall so I'm afraid we shall just have to wake up our neurones and use our imaginations to conjure up our own versions of what may be happening.

That homage to Rivera is situated less than a kilometre from where I am sitting, and it is just one of the dozens of other jumbo-sized mural paintings which are to be found all over Lyon and the surrounding areas (I took some photos of another one, and you can see them here). They were all painted by Cité Création. The association is an internationally-renowned organisation which employs dozens of painters in Lyon alone and it has painted or commissioned almost 600 mural paintings in countries all over the world.

But Cité Création doesn't just 'do paintings on walls', they fulfil a vital need here in Lyon and other major cities. City life can be exciting, but cities can also be soul-destroying at times, so these works - and it is difficult not to spot at least one during a random walk through the city - act as an effective antidote to some of the drab and depressing sights which are to be seen in any city. They are a colourful, inspiring, uplifting and informative mix of history and aesthetics. Every single mural tells a story of real people and events or imagines a better future.

They are the material of dreams.


  1. I have never heard about those beautiful murals, but then again I have never been to Lyon.

    1. You've never been to Lyon? Eitehr you've never lived, gal, or you're a Parisian who, like almost all Parisians, doesn't think the rest of France is worth visiting. :):)

      Seriously though, It's a wonderful city with some gorgeous sights, not least of which is the sumptuous St Jean quarter, which is the oldest renaissance quarter (and not just a couple of buildings) in Europe. It almost has a kind of 'genteel' feel about the civilised way people behave compared to, say, Paris and Marseille, and it's that 'genteel' atmosphere which has led me to make it my French home..

  2. Do you post your blog on Facebook? A lot of people do now and commenters tend to leave messages there instead of on the blog.

    1. I'm afraid I don't have a Facebook account Nadege. Facebook is a very useful tool for many people and I understand that. But it also just so happens that I am a dead set against opponent of the wider implications of the Facebook philosophy.

      Facebook is trying to ensure that we can do nothing online without it being posted to Facebook. I used to submit articles to a couple of newspapers, some of which were published, but I stopped when those papers made it impossible to comment in comment threads (such as this one) without doing so via a Facebook or other social media account. They did this because it generated traffic to the paper's articles in exchange for obliging readers to have Facebook accounts, that which boosted Facebook. The same is true on many citizen journalist sites and the phenomemon is also creeping into commercial and other sites in that and other ways.

      Again, I know Facebook is a good idea, but I am very wary of its efforts to oblige everyone to join in order to exist on the Internet.

      But most of all, hey ho, I like to keep my online life simple and even if my blog doesn't get thousands of hits a day, oh well, I'm quite happy to post for whoever has the kindness to drop by. That's enough for me.

      Oh, but I do exist elsewhere on the net with another blog. This blog is about France, but the one at the URL below is about my personal take on life. It's only new, but you are welcome to visit it.

      And talking of blogs, have you ever considered reactivating your own? I'd be very interested to see the result....... ;)

  3. I checked your other blog. You write very well. By the way, in am 56 years old so we are from the same generation.

    1. You're 56? I somehow imagined that you were younger. Maybe because you work in showbiz. Then again so do I still, albeit less. There's life in us old dogs yet!

  4. The wall is incredible. I think now that next time we go to Paris, we will try to visit Lyon – which we should have done years ago. I have seen some beautiful wall paintings – I saw a great one on Long Island, in New York State and also some nice ones in Oregon I believe – they really ad to the pleasure of walking in a town. I don’t know much about Mexican history. Here in the US, we hear a lot about English history, or Italian history as the Americans like these countries – most of them are anglophiles, but it is harder to hear about the history of Mexico or Canada (at least in Georgia,) and they are neighbors. Years ago when I visited Canada I wanted to find out more about its history. I went into several bookstores in Atlanta and could not find any – I looked under “international history” nothing, so looked under “North American history” nothing, so I asked. The clerk said no one ever asked about Canada, so they don’t stock it. I did buy a French 1880 book on Quebec’s history then. By the way I am pleased that Nadege saw your name as I’m sure she will enjoy many of your posts.
    I also don’t like Facebook much. My daughter told me it was invented for high schoolers to keep in touch. So they are quick messages. I don’t know any of my high school buddies anymore and am rather long winded…

    1. Hello Vagabonde, and I must say I'm surprised that Canada and Mexico don't interest readers in Georgia. After all, they are both large countries and they are both on America's doorstep. Mind you, America is such a massive country that I suppose it must be easy to imagine that everywhere else is so very far away. I'm not surprised that people are interested in England (and Britain and Ireland) and Italy because it seems to me that Americans, many of whose forefathers came from those places, are very keen on knowing about their origins.

      I wonder what your origins are if, as is suggested in the photo, you have ginger hair. Are you a descendant of a member of one of the Pictish hordes? :)

  5. Interesting article. The article took a lot of thought, which makes reading it more interesting. I may return and take a look at what else you have to write.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Joanna, and a look at your site shows why you did. That's a very original business you run there. Your work is excellent and I really like the 'Hungry Caterpillar' mural. Using all three surfaces from a corner (the two walls plus the ceiling) gives so much depth to the tree and that technique gives it a kind of 3-dimensional effect. I hope you get lots of orders and I suppose the run-up to Christmas is a busy time for you too?