This drawing was made from life in the clinic of Dr. Jean-Luis Faure, who was the brother of Rivera’s friend, the doctor and art historian, Élie Faure. Élie’s influence on Rivera was decisive as he encouraged the artist to follow the classical style of Cézanne and to study the art of fresco painting. Rivera based his 1920 painting entitled La Operación on this study, and the subject was later modified and incorporated into a mural in 1925 at the Secretary of Public Education in Mexico City.
Patrick Marnham quotes Faure who wrote in 1927, “The group formed by the surgeon, the patient, his assistants and the onlookers seemed to me to form a single organism in action….It was the event itself which governed every dimension and every aspect of the group, the position of arms, hands, shoulders, heads, none of which could be [altered] without breaking the harmony and rhythm of the group immediately. Even the direction of the light was arranged so that each of the actors could see what he had to do.”
According to Marnham, Faure illustrated his point to Rivera by juxtaposing a photograph of a surgical operation with an illustration of Giotto’s Death of St. Francis. When Rivera painted the same subject in a fresco in Mexico five years later the influence of Giotto and the “nobility” of the composition are evident. (Dreaming with his Eyes Open, v.i. p. 145)
Collection of the artist (gift to Frida Kahlo)
Lillian Nassau, New York
Martigny (Switzerland), Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Diego Rivera–Frida Kahlo, Jan. 24, 1997–June 1, 1998, no. 31, illus. p. 112 in the catalogue
Diego Rivera: 50 Años de su Labor Artística, Exposición de Homenaje Nacional, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, 1949, p. 98, illus. pl. 132.
Pete Hamill, Diego Rivera, New York, 1999, illus. p. 73
Literature on painting and mural:
Hans F. Secker, Diego Rivera, Verlag Der Kunst, Dresden, 1957, illus. p .233. (painting)
Diego Rivera: 50 Años de su Labor Artística, Exposición de Homenaje Nacional, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, 1949, illus. in color pl. 131, p. 98 (painting)
Fondo Editorial de la Plastica Mexicana, Diego Rivera: Pintura de Caballete y Dibujos, Mexico, 1979, illus. in color, pl. 35, p. 43 (painting)
Manuel Reyero, Diego Rivera, Fundacion Cultural Televisa, AC, 1983, illus. pl. 76 (mural) and in color pl. 77 (painting)
Fondo Editorial de la Plastica Mexicana, Diego Rivera: Pintura de Caballete y Dibujos, Mexico. 1986, illus. in color, p. 98. no. 59 (painting)
Diego Rivera, Catálogo General de Obra Mural y Fotografia Personal, INBA, Mexico, 1988, illus. in color, p. 43, pl. 77 (mural) and 77a (painting)
Patrick Marnham, Dreaming with his Eyes Open, A Life of Diego Rivera, New York, 1998, p. 145-148 (discussion of Élie Faure)