In spring 1914 the Chilean painter Ortiz de Zárate arrived at Rivera's studio with the directive, "Picasso sent me to tell you that if you don't go to see him, he's coming to see you." Rivera had ornamented his studio walls with reproductions of the Spanish artist's works and referred to him as "mi maestro"; the two quickly became friends. A painting that may have been inspired by Rivera's studio visits is Sailor at Breakfast, which recalls a cubist painting by Pablo Picasso of a similarly mustachioed student reading a newspaper.
Like many cubist works executed on the eve of World War I, Sailor at Breakfast reflects the rising tide of French nationalism. Rivera's geometrized sailor - in the process of taking a drink at a wood-grain cafe table - wears a prominent cap with an oversized crimson pompom as part of his uniform, emblazoned with the word "patrie" (homeland). Rivera's reference to France and its navy undoubtedly alluded to his loyalty to that country. Yet the term "patrie" not only invokes French patriotism, but also poignantly recalls Rivera's own homeland, from which he was so far removed.