Diego Rivera & his San Francisco Murals

The Pan American Unity mural at the City College of San Francisco

           The Pan American Unity mural at the City College of San Francisco

Use this guide to quickly find reputable sources and save time on your research! Contact your subject librarian or the reference librarians if you need more help. For an overview of how to research efficiently, see Steps of the Research Process.

Rivera Collection in Library, R510

The Diego Rivera Special Collection is housed in the Russell M. Posner Reading Room inside the Rosenberg Library in Room 510. Drop in hours to view the collection are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-11am or by appointment with librarians Julia Bergman, Mauro Garcia, or Will Maynez. The Diego Rivera Special Collection consists of approximately 400 cataloged titles focusing on the life and work of Diego Rivera and artists who assisted him in his work. The collection focuses on Rivera’s murals particularly the Pan American Unity Mural at CCSF. The collection also contains valuable, uncataloged primary material such as letters, oral interviews, realia, and photographs. Three file cabinets contain files of secondary material related to the mural, Rivera’s life and work, and local SF/Bay Area artists from Rivera’s era here, 1930s-1940s. To a lesser degree, the collection also contains material about artist Frida Kahlo. The collection is non-circulating but photocopies may be made of most items.

Highlights of the collection include an hour-long sound recording made by Rivera in 1955, two years before his death, where he talks about his life, his art, his politics, and Pan American Unity; articles Rivera wrote for the Russian Hill Runt (“I am not a communist”) and Esquire magazine; Hundreds of pages of letters and other primary material related to Rivera and his contemporaries photocopied from Archives around the United States and Mexico including Pan American Unity Lead Assistant Emmy Lou Packard’s research on Rivera and binders of information generated by famed architect and GGIE Chairman of the Fine Arts Committee Timothy Pflueger; dozens of photographs of Rivera and his assistants creating the mural; a copy of Diego Rivera, the Complete Murals which reproduces 47 Rivera murals made in Mexico and the United States; and a copy of Rivera and Kahlo’s marriage license, issued by San Francisco City Hall in December, 1940.

There is also a beautiful collection of framed photographs about the creation of the mural on permanent exhibition in the Posner Reading Room. The collection contains photos of the mural in progress, the Golden Gate International Exposition, Diego and Frida, Edward G. Robinson, Emmy Lou Packard and others.

Information about Pan American Unity Mural

To locate books and other materials in CCSF Libraries, select Find Books from the Library's Homepage. You will notice many ways to search, such as Title, Author, Subject, Video, Instructor, etc. There are also many books in the collection that have important sections or chapters on Diego Rivera so be sure to try the Keywords in Contents and Notes search as well.

There are articles in the City College of San Francisco newspaper, The Guardsman, about the mural and about two of the people in the mural, Helen Crlenkovich and Dudley Carter.

There are very few titles that include specific information about Pan American Unity. There are copies of these titles in many locations including Reserve, Circulation, Reference and the Archives. Two titles were written by students as Masters Degree theses. We have learned a lot about the mural since they were written, but they are good sources to use for general ideas about the mural. (NOTE: All books listed as Circulating are located at Rosenberg Library unless otherwise indicated. Reserve books are located at the Circulation desk at the Rosenberg Library)

Barden, Merrill. Understanding the evolution of Diego Rivera’s message to the United States: an explication of the Pan American Unity mural. ND259 .R5 B37 1992.    Eight circulating; 4 (72 hour) Reserve; 2 Reference; 3 (2 hour) Reserve; 1 Ref East; 1 Rivera

Fuentes-Rojas, Elizabeth. Three San Francisco murals of Diego Rivera: a documentary and artistic history. ND259 .R5 F845 1980. Six circulating; 5 (72 Hour) Reserve; 3 (2 Hour) Reserve; 2 Rivera Collection; 1 Reference East

A former English and Humanities instructor at City College also wrote about Diego Rivera and our mural.

Zakheim, Masha. Pan American Unity: a fresco by the Mexican Diego Rivera painted for City College of San Francisco at the Golden Gate International Exposition, Treasure Island, 1939-1940. ND259 .R5 Z355 1991. Ten (48 Hour) Reserve; 2 (72 Hour) Reserve; 1 circulating; 1 Reference East; 1 Rivera Collection

Zakheim, Masha. Diego Rivera in San Francisco. ND259 .R5 Z354 2001. Three circ.; 3 (2 Hour) Reserve; 1 Rivera Collection

Whenever possible, we want to find Rivera’s own voice; what did he say about the themes and images in his mural? This next title is the text of an interview with Rivera.

Rivera, Diego. Diego Rivera: the story of his mural at the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. ND259 .R5 P3 1940. Three (2 Hour) Reserve; 3 Rivera

This is his autobiography, in which 4 chapters are about his time in San Francisco in 1940.

Rivera, Diego. My art, my life: an autobiography . Chapters: A visit with Charlie Chaplin; A salute by the U.S. Navy; A second time with Frida; More popular than Wendell Willkie.
ND259 .R5 A2 1991 Three (48 Hour) Reserve; 1 Rose. circ.; 1 Mission Circ.; 2 Rivera;    1 (2 Hour) Reserve

At the East Reference Desk there are two large binders of material about the mural and the people and images represented in it.

Use the CityCat search Reserves by Course , ESL 79, or Reserves by Instructor , Martin Tina to find folders on Reserve for all the people and images in the mural.

Here is a book that discusses Rivera’s three San Francisco murals, his influence on local artists, and the politics of the 1930’s.

Lee, Anthony W. Painting on the left: Diego Rivera, radical politics, and San Francisco’s public murals. ND259 .R5 L44 1999. Two Mission circ.; 1 Rosen. circ.;     1 (7 Day) Reserve; 1 John Adams circ.; 1 Rivera collection

Diego Rivera in General

This is the best book about Rivera’s life and work in general, and it is well illustrated:

Rivera, Diego & Detroit Institute of Arts. Diego Rivera: a retrospective. Detroit, 1986.
ND259 .R5 A42 1986  Three circulating; 4 (2 Hour) Reserve; 1 Rivera Collection

There are a few other titles which are good, general sources on Rivera:

Rivera, Diego, and Luis-Martin Lozano. Diego Rivera: art & revolution. Mexico, 1999.
N6559 .R5 A4 1999  One (2 Hour) Reserve; 1 Rivera Collection

Wolfe, Bertram. The fabulous life of Diego Rivera.        ND259 .R5 W56                            Two Rosen. circulating; 2 Mission Circ.; 2 (2 Hour) Reserve; 2 Rivera Collection             Spanish language: 1 Rosenberg circulating; 1 Mission circ.; 1 Rivera Collection

Easy Readers about Diego Rivera:

Cockcroft, James D. Diego Rivera. ND259 .R5 C57 1991
1 John Adams circulating; 1 Rivera Collection

Gleiter, Jan. Diego Rivera. ND259 .R5 G54 1989 In Spanish & English.
1 John Adams circulating; 1 Rivera Collection

Gonzales, Doreen. Diego Rivera: his art, his life. ND259 .R5 G67 1996
1 circulating; 1 Rivera Collection
Holland, Gini. Diego Rivera.      ND 259 .R5 H65 1997    One Rivera Collection

Shirley, David. Diego Rivera. N6559 .R58 S55 1995        One circulating; 1 Rivera

Vazquez, Sarah. Diego Rivera: an artist’s life.   ND259 .R5 V39 1998    
1 circulating; 1 Rivera Collection

Venezia, Mike. Diego Rivera.     N6559 .R58 V45 1994    One circulating; 1 Rivera

Winter, Jonah. Diego.    ND259 .R5 W48 1994     In Spanish & English. Two circulating;  1 Mission circulating; Rivera Collection

Click here if you would like to view an annotated bibliography arranged by each panel of the mural or by research theme such as Golden Gate International Exposition or Pan American Unity. The bibliography is a work in progress created by Instructor Jeffrey Goldthorpe for his English 93 course.


Many of the videos in our collection include interesting, original documentary film footage of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Find these by using the Advanced Keyword Search and limit your search to Material Type VHS (Diego Rivera) or DVD (Frida Kahlo).

Rivera in America includes the Pan American Unity mural and an interview with artist and Rivera historian Emmy Lou Packard.    Media Center VHS 1686 or AV V 1946

Searching for Articles in Periodical Databases

Periodical databases group together journal, magazine, and newspaper articles by subject. They also usually provide abstracts (brief summaries) and the full text of the articles. Do you need help identifying the differences between scholarly journal v. popular magazine articles?

Note: Most periodical databases are part of the private, passworded Web, so you will need to have a current CCSF ID card with a barcode to access those that CCSF subscribes to. You get the free barcode from the Library either in person or online.

Ebscohost is a brand name for more than 25 multi-disciplinary databases with coverage from 1980 to the present.

Gale is a brand name for several databases with coverage from 1980 to the present. Most useful for art topics are General OneFile and Expanded Academic ASAP.

Ethnic Newswatch
Comprised of newspapers, magazines and journals of the ethnic, minority and native press in America, this unique body of materials covers a wide range of current topics and countless other social, political and educational subjects. More than 200 publications covering 1995 to the present are represented, and searchable in both English and Spanish.

Biography Resource Center
This database integrates biographies with related full-text articles from hundreds of magazines and newspapers, as well as tens of thousands of images and links to websites

ARTstor is a digital library of more than one million images in the areas of art, architecture, the humanities, and social sciences.

San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) – Electronic Resources, Magazines, and Newspapers (http://sfpl.org/)

The SFPL subscribes to many periodical and reference databases. Try: Art Full Text, or the Art Museum Image Gallery. You must have a San Francisco Public Library card number to access them

Web Resources

Use this website which is dedicated to the Pan American Unity Mural: www.riveramural.org. There are many additional Rivera-related Internet links available on this award-winning bi-lingual site.