Diego Rivera’s Ford (Detroit Industry) Mural
Edsel Ford commissioned famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera to do a series of twenty-seven fresco panels called Detroit Industry on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Arts between 1932 and 1933 (one of Rivera’s few works in the United States). Given full artistic freedom, the Marxist artist fresco’s were created as a tribute to the Motor City’s industries and labor force, depicting the highly productive workers in complete harmony with their machinery. Rivera used the Ford’s Rouge River plant in Dearborn, Michigan as the set model for the industry murals (especially since Edsel was paying for the artists work). The facility had a full steel mill, glass factory, and auto assembly line, so it contained everything he needed to depict a car coming together.
Being that the bulk of this work was painted in 1932, we see the brand new Flathead V-8 block and parts shown throughout the factory. The workers and machines are stylized well, the colors are amazing, but somehow I’m drawn to the Ford parts like a “Where’s Waldo?” book for kids. Obviously, Diego wasn’t an automotive illustrator, but he’s accurate enough with most of the motor shapes, so it leaves no doubt in identifying timing covers or banjo rear axles. If you find yourself in Motown, go to the Detroit Institute of the Arts and see it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
A very cool ‘click and drag’ 360 degree view of the entire room can be found here.
More detailed images of each mural can be found here.