Almanac: Diego Rivera


Artist Diego Rivera is pictured in front of a mural depicting America's class struggle, c. 1933.

New York World-Telegram/Library of Congress

(CBS News)  And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: December 8th, 1886, 127 years ago today, the birthday of one of the most controversial artists of modern times.

Diego Rivera was born in central Mexico that day, and reputedly began drawing at the age of three.

He is best remembered today for his colorful murals in support of socialist causes, and for a pair of tempestuous on-again, off-again marriages to the much younger artist Frida Kahlo.

Beginning in 1932, Rivera painted a series of frescos for The Detroit Institute of Arts called "Detroit Industry," celebrating the assembly line workers of the city's auto plants.

The following year he began working on a mural for New York's Rockefeller Center entitled, "Man at the Crossroads," which included a portrait of Soviet Communist leader Vladimir Lenin.

Rivera's defiance of young Nelson Rockefeller's demand that he take Lenin out of it became the stuff of art world legend, depicted in the 2002 film, "Frida," with Alfred Molina as Rivera and Edward Norton as Rockefeller:

Rivera: "I will not compromise my vision."
Rockefeller:  "In that case, this is your fee, paid in full, as agreed. Your services are no longer required."
Rivera:  "It's my painting."
Rockefeller: "It's my wall."

Rockefeller ordered the destruction of the offending mural, which Rivera later went on to recreate in Mexico City.

And now, more than half a century after Rivera's death in 1957, the future of his Detroit museum murals may be in doubt, with some people fearing that they and other artworks there might have to be auctioned off as part of Detroit's municipal bankruptcy.

Diego Rivera murals -- at the center of controversy yet again.   

Museum patrons view Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" frescos at the Detroit Institute of Arts on October 2, 2013. The museum, founded in 1885, could be forced to close if its world-class collection is allowed to be even partially sold off to pay Detroit's creditors during the city's bankruptcy proceedings. MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images