Although an avowed Marxist, Mr. Rivera was fascinated with the capitalist system and the working of factories, and the majority of the frescoes captured scenes at Ford's River Rouge facility. Worked into the frescoes were images of both Henry and Edsel Ford, as well as Mr. Rivera himself. The "Detroit Industry" frescoes, as they came to be called, were completed in 1933 and caused a civic uproar.
Objections were raised because of panels showing nudes and also because of the artist's leftist political views. Calls came to have the murals painted over, but Edsel Ford, the museum staff and others in the arts community rallied to save the artwork, which Mr. Rivera later called his finest achievement.
A postscript: Soon after completing his Detroit project, Mr. Rivera was commissioned to do a fresco for the new Rockefeller Center in New York, but this mural was destroyed soon after its completion because the artist had included an image of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin-an image that he refused to delete.