Your Destination Guide to San Francisco

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Diego Rivera Murals

Diego Rivera Murals
Diego Rivera Murals

© Alexandre Lacerda

Born Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodrígue, Mexican artist Diego Rivera's career is just as extensive and impressive as his given name. Husband of the revered female artist Frida Khalo, the world-famous artist painted murals in American cities including San Francisco, Detroit, and New York between 1922 and 1953. His style, which helped to establish the Mexican Mural Renaissance, is imprinted upon San Franciscan art and political scenes through the iconic murals at Coit Tower. The frescos were painted in typical Rivera style, not only visually but also politically. Rivera was an active communist, and the Coit Tower murals portray strong leftist themes considered to be extremely controversial in the 1930s.

Rivera was invited to San Francisco by architect Timothy L. Pflueger. After arriving in September 1930, Rivera painted a mural at the City Club of the San Francisco Stock Exchange, and a fresco for the San Francisco Art Institute.

Although the Stock Exchange mural is painted on the walls of a private club and therefore unavailable to the public, Allegory of California has been described as one of San Francisco's real treasures. The grand fresco covers the wall and ceiling of the grand stairwell. Its central element is a portrait of Califia, for whom the state of California is named. James Marshall, discoverer of gold, is also depicted in this representation of youth and their dreams.

The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City (1930) at the Art Institute is one of four murals that Rivera completed in the Bay area. Split into six sections by wood scaffold, the mural fills the entire end wall of the gallery. The fresco within the fresco shows a modern city building with portraits of several individuals involved in the project. The top center panel depicts Rivera himself, perched on a scaffold with paintbrush and palette in his palms. He watches as his assistants work above him. For a full description of the mural, see:

Attraction Information

  • Hours:
  • 9am to 7:30pm daily
  • Admission:
  • Free
  • Metro Stop:
  • Muni train F: exit Jones St & Beach St
  • Contact:
  • Location: 800 Chestnut Street (between Jones and Leavenworth), San Francisco, CA
  • Phone: 415-771-7020
  • Website:
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