Just round the corner from La Noria Tren Ligero station, the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño sits amid peaceful and beautifully tended grounds where peacocks strut, oblivious of the busy streets outside, and houses the largest private collection of Diego Rivera’s work. It’s built into a seventeenth-century mansion, donated in 1994 by the elderly Dolores Olmedo, a wealthy collector and longtime friend and patron of Rivera’s. Over the years she amassed over 130 of his works, all of which are on display here. They span his career, from his Cubist period in the early twentieth century through self-portraits (exhibiting varying degrees of flattery) to 25 sunsets painted in Acapulco from the balcony of his patron’s house. The collection is immensely varied, making this perhaps the best place to get a true sense of just how versatile a master he was. Look particularly for three large and striking nudes from the early 1940s, and sketches for his famous paintings of calla lilies.
Rivera’s work is reason enough to come here, but the museum also has an outstanding collection of two dozen paintings by Frida Kahlo. With the works arranged in approximate chronological order, it is easy to see her development as an artist, from the Riveraesque approach of early works such as 1929’s The Bus, to her infinitely more powerful self-portraits. Many of her finest works are here, including Henry Ford Hospital, A Few Small Pricks, La Columna Rota and Autorretrato con Mono (Self-Portrait with Monkey), the latter featuring Mexico’s most distinctive canine breed, the grey-skinned Xoloitzcuintle, of which Kahlo kept several as pets. To see these hairless pre-Colombian dogs in the flesh, wander out into the garden where a few are still kept. There’s also a portrait of Kahlo by Rivera elsewhere in the museum, in a pastiche of her own style.
Though easily overshadowed by the Rivera and Kahlo pieces, there is also a worthwhile collection of wood-block prints done by Angelina Beloff, Diego’s first wife, featuring scenes from Mexico and her native Russia.