Saturday, March 11, 2017

Maynard Dixon and Diego Rivera Connections

"Allegory of California," Pacific Stock Exchange Building, San Francisco, Diego Rivera, 1931. Photographer unknown. Courtesy Albert Bender Papers, Mills College.

There are some fascinating comparisons between Rivera's 1931 "Allegory of California" mural in Timothy Pflueger's Pacific Stock Exchange Building and Maynard Dixon and Frank Van Sloun's 1926 mural panels in the ballroom of Charles Peter Weeks's Mark Hopkins Hotel. Pflueger gave Rivera free rein to develop his allegory around the persona of period tennis star Helen Wills Moody (see below) who symbolized the youthful exuberance of burgeoning California while Weeks directed Dixon and Van Sloun to use as a central unifying theme the mythological Queen Califia as the "Spirit of California."

Diego Rivera and Helen Wills Moody, 1930. Courtesy San Francisco Public Library.

Dixon, Maynard, "Queen Califia," Room of the Dons, Mark Hopkins Hotel, 1926. Pacific Coast Architect, January 1927.

Maynard Dixon, ca. 1925. Photo by Dorothea Lange. Courtesy Oakland Museum of California, Dorothea Lange Collection.

Dixon and Van Sloun were initially among the most vocal opponents of bringing the "communist" Rivera to San Francisco when a plethora of local talent was available. The controversy gradually subsided after Rivera's work began to take shape and Dixon's close friend Ralph Stackpole, who was hosting Rivera in his Jessop St. studio, introduced him to local artists who began socializing with the affable Mexican. 

Rivera and Ralph Stackpole, 1930. Courtesy San Francisco Public Library.

A December San Francisco 1930 visit by Edward Weston, then living in Carmel, likely did much to diffuse the anti-Rivera sentiment. Weston's wide circle of San Francisco photographer and artist friends, including Dixon and Lange and Roi Partridge and Imogen Cunningham, knew of his 1923-26 Mexican sojourn and close friendship with Rivera and would seemingly inevitably have socialized together with the amigos. (See more at my "Edward Weston and Diego Rivera, December 1930").

Diego and Frida, Ralph Stackpole's Studio, 27 Jessop Place, San Francisco, December, 1930. Photo by Edward Weston. Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Weston Collection.

Exhibition Catalogue, Diego Rivera, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, November 15 to December 25, 1930. Introduction by Katherine Field Caldwell. From author's collection. (Author's note: Caldwell was the daughter of early Rivera patron Charles Erskine Scott Wood and Sarah Bard Field).

Dixon, Maynard, "Portrait of Galka Scheyer," 1925. (The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum by Vivian Endicott Barnett, Yale University Press, 2002, pp. 426-435). 

Coincidentally, Dixon befriended and opened doors for Galka Scheyer in the fall of 1925 (see above for example) about the time Weeks commissioned him for the Mark Hopkins Murals. Scheyer befriended Rivera in 1931 and got him to sponsor her Blue Four exhibitions at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and in Mexico City later the same year. This will be covered in much greater detail in my upcoming "Schindler-Scheyer-Eaton-Ain: A Case Study in Adobe." Watch this space.