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Sugar Cane

José Diego María Rivera, Mexican, 1886 - 1957

This fresco painting by Diego Rivera shows economic inequality on a plantation in the southern Mexican state of Morelos before the country’s revolution of 1910–20. In the foreground, an indigenous Indian woman with the distinctive braids and white clothing of a peasant, along with two children, harvests papaya fruits. In the middle- and background, men cut and carry heavy bundles of sugarcane as two foremen supervise. Rivera highlights racial characteristics to emphasize differences of social class between the workers, who have dark skin and hair, and the light-skinned blonde landowner who relaxes in a hammock on his porch, guard dogs at his side.

Rivera painted Sugar Cane and another work in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Liberation of the Peon (1943-46-1), on moveable supports of steel, cement, and plaster for presentation in his one-artist exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1931.


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