True picture of the Man of Letters, Defender of Liberty and Human Rights, Corliss Lamont. I painted this picture in Mexico in the month of July of the year 1954.
Corliss Lamont ’20 was an alumnus of the Academy who went on to become a well-known socialist philosopher and philanthropist. His donations to the Academy were numerous and generous, and included this portrait of himself painted by Diego Rivera.
The oral tradition around this painting explains the calla lilies in the portrait as a tribute to Frida Kahlo. Kahlo died while this portrait was still a work in progress, and Rivera completed it, saying that working on his art was good therapy. The story goes that he included the lilies because they were her favorite flowers, and that all his paintings from the time after her death included the lilies for that reason.
The painting was displayed in the library from the time of the gift in 1979 until 2007. While it was being rehung after a water leak that had required moving it, the frame came apart, revealing that the original frame had been covered up by a second frame. The decision was made to have the painting professionally restored and returned to its original frame, and it recently arrived back in the Lamont Room on the fourth floor of the library.