Rodolfo Nieto, Mexican (1936 - 1988)

Rodolfo Nieto

In 1936 Rodolfo Nieto was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, during a time of change in the country. Mexico was moving forward with new ideas not only in politics but in art, coveted traditional European art was replaced with Diego Rivera’s bold social statements and David Alfaro Siqueiros’ murals that showed political injustices. Communism, Marxism, socialism, these new “isms” could shake up the country into new revolutions or put the artist dissident in jail.

When Nieto was 12 years old, he moved with his family to Mexico City. He was a soft spoken child who kept to himself and read Tarzan comic books. The Tarzan animals caught his attention most likely because their message was clear: they were noble without trying. No “isms” ruled their world, not political despots who threatened jail, only the strong survived.

At fourteen years old, he attended the Esmeralda School of Art and soon after was apprenticing for Rivera. Diego would sketch out his painting on a scrape of paper. Nieto prepared the wall for a mural and drew out the sketch for Diego to later fill in the color.

Drawing the parts of a mural was boring work; on the other hand, it may have ignited Nieto to create his own genre of Mexican art. In his later works, he mentally took apart the elements only to reassemble them differently on the canvas. He used the bold colors of Diego Rivera and showed the social injustices of David Alfaro Siqueiros, but not with humans as the subject: Nieto employed the animals he remembered from his youth in the Tarzan comic books.

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