Among the iconic images of modern printmaking, "Zapata" depicts a legendary leader of the Mexican Revolution followed by a group of peasants carrying farming tools and weapons. One hand holds the reins of a horse, whose mourning expression pays tribute to the lifeless body of a soldier, while the other carries a sickle, symbolically connecting Zapata’s vision of land reform with that of the Communist party. A quintessential subject of the Mexican modernist movement, Zapata appeared for the first time in Rivera’s work in the Cubist painting "Zapatista Landscape", executed in Paris in 1915; it became a recurrent theme throughout his career. The present work was part of Rivera’s first series of lithographs, exhibited in the group show, "Mexican Graphic Art", at the Weyhe Gallery in New York in May 1932. Its composition is based on a portable fresco—derived from his mural "The History of Cuernavaca and Morelos" (1929-30), in Cuernavaca—that Rivera created for his retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1931. The print is testament to the increasing popularity Rivera enjoyed after the exhibition, which secured him the important—and infamously destroyed—mural commission at Rockefeller Center.
Text credit: Produced in collaboration with the University of Maryland Department of Art History & Archaeology and Patricia Ortega-Miranda.