CM: In her diaries, Frances Rich wrote: "19 February 1994 / This self-portrait painted by Diego Rivera in the F. Rich Studio in Santa Barbara, CA. in January 1941 / Diego had been commissioned by my mother, Irene Rich, when we visited him at work at the World Fair in San Francisco, summer and fall of 1940. Diego and assistants arrived in late December in Santa Barbara. He painted the fresco and you have photos taken shortly upon its completion. My mother brought a photographer from Hollywood to my studio in Santa Barbara. Diego had asked me if he could stay on in Santa Barbara until he could complete his self- portrait. [Sigmund] Firestone had already a self-portrait painted by Frida, Diego's wife. Diego was to make his self- portrait in colors similar to her palette for her self painting. Diego wanted to be able to avoid customs and to send the finished portrait to Mr. Firestone before he left for Mexico. I was delighted to have him stay on about. I asked him if he would mind it if I tackled a portrait of him as he painted himself, using a model three attached mirror. He said O.K. This portrait of Diego, eventually was in terracotta pressed in a plaster of Paris mold taken from the original plasticine portrait. The terracotta, I still have, and am in negotiation to give it to a special place in Mexico. A professor from Mexico who is very much of an authority on Diego and teaches at a college in USA is working on the details. Smith College Museum of Art has a bronze replica of the original clay portrait. Terracotta clay shrinks ¼" to a foot in the drying and firing. So the bronze is even larger than the massive clay. I also used a black ceramic glaze on one of the terracotta versions, which I still have in my studio home in Payson, AZ. Because of dampness in my lovely home by the sea in Santa Barbara I have moved to Arizona as of 1992. FR. / When these photos of all of us were taken, mother bought at once Diego's self portrait. So he added the written material 'Pinté me baraco para la / bella y famosa artista / Irene Rich, y fué en la ciudad de / Santa Bárbara, de / la California del Sur / durante le mesde Enero del año de 1941 / Diego Rivera'. He therefore painted a second self-portrait for Mr. Firestone before he left for Mexico."
It is worth noting that Rivera visited the Rich Studio during the time he was briefly divorced from his wife, Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). Rich's Bust of Diego Rivera is arguably a powerful portrait. Even though it is twice life size it seems even bigger. It has a psychological presence that extends far beyond its physical boundaries. The imposing physical appearance - protruding eyes, closed lips, and alert ears - reflects his rebellious nature. His expressive eyes convey a sense of accumulated wisdom and gentle introspection. Sculpted with unflinching realism, Rivera's face comes to life with mature self-consciousness. Rich worked furiously on the bust in an effort to complete it before Rivera finished his self-portrait and left. As it seemed she would not be able to do so, Irene offered to buy his portrait so that he would have to extend his stay and paint another one, and her daughter would have time to complete her bust of him. Rivera's Self-Portrait Dedicated to Irene Rich was eventually gifted by its owner, Irene Rich Clifford, to Smith College Museum of Art in 1977. Shortly after the United States entered the Second World War in December 1941, Rich enlisted as a lieutenant and worked at Lockheed in Burbank, California, as an engineer draftsman, drawing for repair manuals. Rich exhibited the bronze Bust Portait of Diego Rivera once at the Southwest Museum Gallery of Art, Palm Desert, California in 1964, and donated it to Smith College Art Museum in 1978.
[Megakles Rogakos 01/2009]
ARMITAGE, MERLE The Sculpture of Frances Rich 1974 Manzanita Press, Ramona, CA, p.24 & 59
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Frances Rich - La Gazelle 2010 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens