The correspondence between Rivera and Pflueger before Art in Action began gives insight into Rivera’s jovial character and alludes to the mysterious need for Rivera to leave Mexico in the Spring of 1940. The following four letters are courtesy of John Pflueger, Architect.
- Rivera to Pflueger, Undated
- Rivera to Pflueger on April 15, 1940
- Agreement on April 15, 1940
- Rivera to Pflueger, Undated (2)
Undated letter from Rivera to Pflueger
In this letter, Rivera expresses his interest in Pflueger’s “proposition.”
Palmas y Altavista
Mr. Timothy L. Pflueger
San Francisco, California
My dear Tim,
I received your wire and met the charming Doctor Grace Morley. She gave me your message for which I am very grateful to you as I find the proposition exceedingly interesting and am anxiously awaiting its realization.
As I told her, I want to know what year the job is in your budget. We can always come to an agreement, I am sure. The only question is: in ten years, I will be older, meaning grown daughters, a house, more taxes, and all the bothersome things and expenses which is probably why the dealers have raised the prices of my paintings and why I need more money for the same things I did ten years ago, for much less. I suppose then, Timothy, that all of us are more or less in the same degree of evolution, and you will understand. Of course, it can not be objectionable to be so anxiously awaiting the realization of the mural. You know how pleasant it will be for me to do something for my San Francisco friends and the City.
I also want to know about the possibilities of subject matter, dimensions of figures, and everything an architect, such as Tim, could tell me about the job. I would like to know if you want a Mexican or an American subject or a subject with an abstract character. It might interest the public of the World’s Fair to see a Mexican painter at work on the “Mexican Mural.” If so, please tell me now so that I may do the necessary sketches from life, etc. here.
I have been intending to give an exhibition of my paintings in New York, this November. The new matter might prevent the exhibition, and you will understand that the consequences will have to be arranged. Please take this into account as much as you can because it might signify a very heavy economic loss for me. If I could also begin in June, it would be marvelous for me because I must be in the East, in May, and I want to be through with the matter before I go on to San Francisco.
I don’t know what your plans are for conditions of the jobs and the other painters’ opinions. As for me, I would prefer to be furnished materials, plaster men, and an assistant, all that I need, and let the enterprise pay the wages and expenses of such people. I am sure that you have many good people in whom you have confidence, right in San Francisco. Then, you will only have to take my own work into consideration.
Possibly, it might be much easier and convenient for both parties if, in the beginning, the preparation of the wall were left entirely up to you as we did in the Stock Exchange and the Fine Arts School during the beautiful days of our week-ends in the countryside of the Family Club. Alas that such days can not come again this summer. Physicians, eyes, liver, glands, all kinds of terrible things have stopped the good eats, marvelous drinks of which you gave me plenty ten years ago.
This doesn’t mean that I have fallen in a bad humor. No, sir! Without drinks, I am having as much fun as always. Don’t think I’m bad because of this explanation. After all, one has to have something in life, don’t you think? But, I can not even be a good tea or party artist anymore because, not having wonderful little Frida with me, I can not put anymore tuxedos on since I don’t know how to arrange the ties. Then, I am finished with teas, parties, lectures, and am just a real, serious old man, thinking about the job to be done. Do you like this better or are you still enjoying stormy week-ends? Please let me hear about all this, including the serious questions in the letter, if possible, by return air mail.
Letter from Rivera to Pflueger on April 15, 1940
Rivera’s acceptance of Pflueger’s invitation to participate in the GGIE and paint a fresco.
April 15th of 1940
Hotel Ritz, Mexico City.
I am most happy to accept your kind invitation to participate in the G.G.I.E. and paint a fresco in the Palace of Fine Arts, on the condition that I be permitted to make this my personal contribution toward the promotion of good will between our countries and because of my great affection for my friends in San Francisco who made my previous stay in San Francisco such a pleasant one.
For years I have felt that the real art of the Americas most came as a result of the fusion of the machinism and new creative power of the north with the tradition rooted in the soil of the south, the Toltecs, Tarascans, Mayas, Incas, etc., and would like to choose that as the subject of my mural.
I am enthusiastic about this project and shall look forward eagerly to the pleasure of again seeing and being with you and my many other friends in San Francisco.
Agreement on April 15, 1940
Signed by Rivera and Pflueger, this agreement outlines the scope of the mural project, including size, cost, and subject matter.
April 15th 1940
It is hereby mutually agreed by the undersigned as follows:
Diego Rivera agrees to paint a fresco of approximately nine hundred (900) square feet in the Art in Action Section of the Palace of Fine Arts in the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco on panels which will later be removed and installed in San Francisco. The design to be suited to panels of sizes to be agreed upon which will make them suitable for removal to their permanent location. The subject of the work shall be the Art of the Americas as expressed by the machinism of the north fused with the tradition rooted in the soil of the south: the Toltecs, Mayas, Tarasco, Incas etc. or such other subject as may be mutually agreed upon by the undersigned.
Diego Rivera further agrees to stay in San Francisco not less than three months.
The Golden Gate International Exposition agrees to pay Diego Rivera, to cover his expenses for the period of his stay in San Francisco the sum of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) per month payable in amounts of five hundred dollars ($500.00) at the end of each half month after arrival in San Francisco, provided however that the period of his stay in San Francisco shall not exceed the duration of the Exposition i.e. from May 25 to Sept 29th 1940.
The Exposition further agrees to pay Diego Rivera the sum of One Thousand ($1000.00) dollars for travelling expenses said amount to be payable not later than May 1st 1940. The Exposition further agrees to furnish at its own expense a satisfactory place in which to work in the Palace of Fine Arts which shall be under the complete control of Diego Rivera and further to furnish all labor and materials required by Diego Rivera in conjunction with the execution of his work.
The Exposition further agrees to furnish Diego Rivera with a studio in San Francisco.
Two copies of this agreement, one marked “Original” the second “Duplicate” have been written in long hand, the original to be retained by T. L. Pflueger for the G.G.I.E. the duplicate by Diego Rivera for himself.
The above is in full accordance with our understanding.
April 15th 1940
Timothy L. Pflueger
for Golden Gate International Exposition
Undated letter (2) from Rivera to Pflueger
Rivera discloses his need to leave Mexico City as soon as possible.
Palmas y Altavista
I received your letter of April 26 for which I thank you very much. Please thank everybody for their good will towards me.
As soon as I arrive in San Francisco, we might choose the helpers that the WPR offered. I leave the plastermen to you entirely since you know the conditions of men and material there, better than I.
For important reasons, I need to leave Mexico City as soon as possible. Please do not forget this. I should be in San Francisco, May 25, or, at the latest, June 3. I would appreciate it if you sent me, as soon as you could, the amount covering the expenses of the trip, the thousand dollars we stipulated.
I enclose a letter I received. Until I know your opinion, I do not wish to act. The letter probably has no importance but is certainly a “provocation.”
Kindest regards and greetings to Gerstle, Stackpole, Eloesser, Bender, and all our friends. I expect to be in San Francisco, May 25 or, at the latest, June 3.
P.S. Frida sends you and all her San Francisco friends, kindest regards.