My Favourite Painting: Cassandra Goud

'I love flowers and the idea of a huge basket of calla lilies being brought to me is my idea of heaven.'

Cassandra Goad chooses The Flower Seller:

‘A print of this painting was the first of Rivera’s works I saw on my earliest trip to Mexico in 1988. A Mexican pottery blue-and-cream vase full of calla lilies (made out of maize husks) stood to the side of the print. I still have both today.

‘I love flowers and the idea of a huge basket of calla lilies being brought to me is my idea of heaven.’

Cassandra Goad is the founder of the eponymous fine-jewellery brand and a member of the Court of Assistants of the Goldsmiths’ Company.

John McEwen comments on The Flower Seller:

Modern artists have found Zantedeschia lilies the sexiest flower. Zantedeschia fall into two types: the hardy, which is white, and the tender, usually called calla, which has yellow, pink, orange or purple flowers. In the USA, all Zantedeschia seem to be called callas.

In one description of this painting, the calla is ‘a sensual, sculptural flower and quintessential example of Mexico’s exuberant flora’. Throughout his life, Rivera painted allums, in the murals of manual workers for which he is most famous and in several versions of The Flower Seller. They can be seen as an expression of sensual passion or, more prosaically, as a political statement ‘about the importance of the ordinary working person for the wealthy Mexican upper classes’.

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Rivera, who was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, said that a comet blazed across the sky on the eve of his parents’ wedding in 1882. Christened Diego Maria de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, he was of Mexican, Spanish, Indian, African, Italian, Jewish, Russian and Portuguese descent.

Patrick Marnham opens his biography with a quotation from the poet Octavio Paz: ‘The Mexican tells lies because he delights in fantasy.’ Nothing could be more true of Rivera’s exaggerations.

His parents were teachers in a primary school owned by his mother’s family and he had an academic art training from the age of 10, in Mexico and then Europe. He achieved international fame, now eclipsed by the third of his four wives, the painter Frida Kahlo.

This picture was given to the Norton Simon Museum by that Hollywood legend and son of Bristol Cary Grant.

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