Dolores Olmedo once said that everything she had done in her life was "the product of the efforts of a Mexican woman, taught by another Mexican woman to love her country above all things." That could have been his epitaph after a life that, marked by the political and social circumstances of the twentieth century in Mexico, dedicated to culture and the preservation and promotion of the country's artistic heritage.
Long before the elevators became movie plot, Dolores met the painter Diego Rivera in one of the Secretary of Education when he accompanied his mother and there changed his life. She ended up turning her into a muse by painting several sketches and awakening in her a deep admiration that made them inseparable friends, especially in the last years of the artist's life.
From that moment on, Lola, as she was later known, directed her life to an interest in art, especially that of Diego Rivera, with whom she committed to making her legacy endure for the enjoyment of the Mexican people, although it was also A versatile and successful woman in business.
María de los Dolores Olmedo and Patiño Suárez was born on December 14, 1908, in Tacubaya, Mexico City. She was the oldest of the children of a teacher whom she admired and always thanked for her efforts, María Patiño Suárez, and an accountant and lawyer, Manuel Olmedo Mayagoitia. Born two years before the Mexican Revolution and losing her father when she was six, her childhood, as an older sister, was not easy in a period of extreme need.
The family situation and also that of the country prevented Dolores and her siblings from going to school regularly, although all received the first notions of reading and writing in Tacubaya primary school, where her mother taught. Throughout her life Dolores always remembered that the main influence in her life came from her mother's example.
Dolores helped her by giving some drawing classes to groups of young children and that is how she became interested in the arts and how she began to prepare and study to cover the credits corresponding to secondary education. Later he entered the national preparatory school, which was the prerequisite to the National University.
In 1924 the revealing meeting took place between Dolores Olmedo and the painter Diego Rivera in the building of the Secretariat of Public Education. Dolores, who accompanied her mother, and the artist, who painted murals in the building, coincided in the elevator. He asked the mother for permission to make some sketches of the beauty that had been pledged and the connection between them from that moment remained for life marked by admiration and friendship.
Dolores began her graduate work at the Autonomous University of Mexico studying law for two years at a time when few women reached a university level. However, her great passion for the arts and culture of Mexico took her away from that path, choosing the National School of Music and the Academy of San Carlos.
From a young age he began to live with intellectuals of the time, which increased his interest and knowledge about art: poets such as Salvador Novo and Xavier Villaurrutia, writers such as Jaime Torres Bodet; philosophers such as José Vasconcelos and Antonio Caso; musicians such as Julián Carrillo, Luis Sandi, Manuel M. Ponce and Carlos Chávez; politicians such as Narciso Bassols and painters Joaquín Clausell, Alfredo Ramos Martínez and Germán Gedovius.
In those prodigious years of youth Dolores also met Howard Phillips, a British journalist of Victorian education who worked as editor in the magazine Mexican Life, and with whom she married in 1935. At the beginning of the 40s, Lola Olmedo was already the mother of four children: Alfredo, Irene, Eduardo and Carlos and, although the couple separated in 1948, they remained in contact and maintained a good relationship until Howard's death.
Diego Rivera, who also wrote in the magazine Mexican Life, gave Dolores a nude and a self-portrait that years later she asked him to return, motivating the friendship between Dolores and Diego to be marked by estrangement for some years.
Dolores continued to form and, after two years of Law and his foray into Music and Art, he studied Philosophy and traveled to Paris to study Anthropology, Museology and History of Art. On her return to Mexico, she decided to start a career in the brick industry and later in construction because of her commitment, as an older sister, to support her family after the death of her mother.
Her small businesses were growing thanks to the collaboration with several construction companies and soon Dolores became a highly successful industrialist and a leading businesswoman. She became general manager of a real estate company, something unthinkable at the time she did it, when women did not run companies, much less construction companies.
With the profits he obtained from his companies, some of them from the largest in Mexico, he invested in property. Dolores proved so astute that virtually everything she touched was a considerable success, so she was able to fulfill her lifelong ambition to collect art, since her love for Mexican culture never fell into oblivion.
In 1955 the lethargic friendship was renewed by the distancing between Dolores Olmedo and Diego Rivera, although the affection and the details between them never disappeared. At that time the painter already knew that he was condemned to death for the cancer he suffered, and Lola, who had already acquired some of his works, helped him when he returned from Diego's trip to the Soviet Union to treat the disease. Diego painted Dolores that year holding a basket of tropical fruits and the colorful indigenous Tehuana dress embroidered from southern Mexico.
At that time, Diego Rivera advised Lola to buy pre-Hispanic pieces, with which he began a collection that was increased with other archaeological pieces, various pictorial works and objects that belonged to Frida Kahlo. The objective was to allocate them to give content to public museums.
Diego Rivera made his public testament open in which he left real estate to ten people, including Dolores Olmedo. In October 1956, in addition to the works of art she had acquired, Diego suggested others to enrich her collection and secure her legacy. On October 20, 1957, Diego Rivera, in poor health, extended a letter before a notary granting Olmedo the rights to all his works, texts and documents in his possession.
Upon the death of Diego, that same year, Doña Lola, as she began to be called, had acquired 50 Rivera's works, in addition to the commitment to take over the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera museums. During the following years she maintained her interest in collecting and nothing stopped her to continue buying pictorial work, lots of prehispanic pieces, New Spain stew and Mesoamerican folk art.
From that moment, Dolores Olmedo occupied political and cultural positions from which she could organize exhibitions of Mexican art inside and outside the country. His talent for business, his good eye as a collector and his determination to increase the cultural heritage of Mexico led to the construction of the Museum Dolores Olmedo.
In 1962 he acquired the La Noria farm, a farm in Xochimilco that would serve as his home and host his museum and foundation. There, Dolores raised peacocks, ducks, Canada geese, chickens and xoloitxcuintles. With her bluish black hair scraped back and her fine collection of jewelry was considered a powerful woman, elegant and full of 'glamor'.
The Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1994, houses 128 of Rivera's works and 25 of Frida Kahlo, plus more than 6,000 archaeological pieces from countless Mexican cultures and a library with 4,000 copies. In addition, it exhibits a large collection of antique furniture from the colonial era, as well as a vast collection of popular art from all over Mexico. Her collection of Kahlo's work is considered among the best in the world, a collection that provides an overview of her entire career, and also includes one of Rivera's first pencil drawings: a portrait of her mother when she was only 10 years old , as well as The watermelons, the last work he painted and signed.
Doña Lola had time to marry two more times: although she always maintained a good relationship with her first husband, Howard Phillips, until she died in 1972, she married a second time with Juan Cañedo, a bullfighter, although she also failed, as well as that on the third occasion, this time with Arturo Izquierdo.
Dolores Olmedo died on July 27, 2002, at 93, at his home in Xochimilco, Mexico City. He left the legacy of a great promoter of culture, achieving what every good patron always aspires to achieve: to help art transcend and, at the same time, to transcend the person. He played a vital role in Mexican cultural life by organizing exhibitions of Mexican art abroad and struggled to preserve the traditions surrounding the Mexican culture. Day of the Dead, who were in danger of being displaced by the popularity of Halloween. It was, in addition to a muse for painters, the defender of Mexican culture and tradition, a title that fit very well with their figure and way of being.