José Clemente Orozco

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José Clemente Orozco
Jose Clemente Orosco por R. Sanchez Garcia, 1950.jpg
José Clemente Orozco by R. Sánchez García, 1950
Born(1883-11-23)November 23, 1883
DiedSeptember 7, 1949(1949-09-07) (aged 65)
Mexico City, Mexico
EducationSan Carlos Academy
Known for Painting, Muralist
Movement Mexican Mural Movement, Social Realism
Awards National Prize for Arts and Sciences

José Clemente Orozco (November 23, 1883 September 7, 1949) was a Mexican caricaturist [1] and painter, who specialized in political murals that established the Mexican Mural Renaissance together with murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others. Orozco was the most complex of the Mexican muralists, fond of the theme of human suffering, but less realistic and more fascinated by machines than Rivera. Mostly influenced by Symbolism , he was also a genre painter and lithographer. Between 1922 and 1948, Orozco painted murals in Mexico City, Orizaba, Claremont, California, New York City, Hanover, New Hampshire, Guadalajara, Jalisco, and Jiquilpan, Michoacán. His drawings and paintings are exhibited by the Carrillo Gil Museum in Mexico City, and the Orozco Workshop-Museum in Guadalajara. [2] Orozco was known for being a politically committed artist and promoted the political causes of peasants and workers. [3]

Painting Practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Mural piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a large permanent surface

A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other permanent surface. A distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

Diego Rivera Mexican painter and muralist

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, known as Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter. His large frescoes helped establish the Mexican mural movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals in, among other places, Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. In 1931, a retrospective exhibition of his works was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Rivera had a volatile marriage with fellow Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.



José Clemente Orozco was born in 1883 in Zapotlán el Grande (now Ciudad Guzmán), Jalisco to Rosa de Flores Orozco. He married Margarita Valladares, and had three children. At the age of 21, Orozco lost his left hand while working with gunpowder to make fireworks. [4] [5]

Ciudad Guzmán Place in Jalisco, Mexico

Ciudad Guzmán is a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco. It is 124 kilometres (77 mi) south of Guadalajara, at a height of 1,507 metres (4,944 ft) above sea level. Its population totaled 97,750 in the 2010 census, ranking as the eighth-largest city in the state.

Jalisco State of Mexico

Jalisco, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Jalisco, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and is bordered by six states which are Nayarit, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Colima. Jalisco is divided into 125 municipalities, and its capital city is Guadalajara. Jalisco is one of the most important states in Mexico because of its natural resources as well as its history. Many of the characteristic traits of Mexican culture, particularly outside Mexico City, are originally from Jalisco, such as mariachi, ranchera music, birria, tequila, jaripeo, etc., hence the state's motto: "Jalisco es México." Economically, it is ranked third in the country, with industries centered in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, the second largest metropolitan area in Mexico. The state is home to two significant indigenous populations, the Huichols and the Nahuas. There is also a significant foreign population, mostly retirees from the United States and Canada, living in the Lake Chapala and Puerto Vallarta areas.

Prometeo del Pomona College Prometheus (1927) de Jose Clemente Orozco en Pomona College.jpg
Prometeo del Pomona College

The satirical illustrator José Guadalupe Posada, whose engravings about Mexican culture and politics challenged Mexicans to think differently about post-revolutionary Mexico, worked in full view of the public in shop windows located on the way Orozco went to school. In his autobiography, Orozco confesses, "I would stop [on my way to and from school] and spend a few enchanted minutes in watching [Posada]… This was the push that first set my imagination in motion and impelled me to cover paper with my earliest little figures; this was my awakening to the existence of the art of painting" (Orozco, 1962). He goes on to say that watching Posada's engraving decorated gave him his introduction to the use of color. After attending school for Agriculture and Architecture, Orozco studied art at the Academy of San Carlos. He worked as an illustrator for Mexico City newspapers and directly as an illustrator for one of the Constitutionalist armies overseen by "First Chief" Venustiano Carranza. When the revolutionary factions split in 1914 after Victoriano Huerta was ousted, Orozco supported Carranza and General Álvaro Obregón against Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. [6] The violence he witnessed profoundly affected his life and art. “The world was torn apart around us,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Troop convoys passed on their way to slaughter. Trains were blown up.” [7]

José Guadalupe Posada Mexican artist

José Guadalupe Posada was a Mexican political printmaker and engraver whose work has influenced many Latin American artists and cartoonists because of its satirical acuteness and social engagement. He used skulls, calaveras, and bones to make political and cultural critiques. Among his famous works was La Catrina.

Engraving practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it

Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called "engravings". Engraving is one of the oldest and most important techniques in printmaking. Wood engraving is a form of relief printing and is not covered in this article.

Culture societys way of life within anthropology

Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Culture is considered a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. Cultural universals are found in all human societies; these include expressive forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion, and technologies like tool usage, cooking, shelter, and clothing. The concept of material culture covers the physical expressions of culture, such as technology, architecture and art, whereas the immaterial aspects of culture such as principles of social organization, mythology, philosophy, literature, and science comprise the intangible cultural heritage of a society.

With Diego Rivera, he was a leader of the artist movement known as Mexican Muralism. An important distinction he had from Rivera was his darker view of the Mexican Revolution. While Rivera was a bold, optimistic figure, touting the glory of the revolution, Orozco was less comfortable with the bloody toll the social movement was taking. Orozco is known as one of the "Big Three" muralists along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. All three artists, as well as the painter Rufino Tamayo, experimented with fresco on large walls, and elevated the art of the mural.

Mexican Revolution major nationwide armed struggle in Mexico between 1910 and 1920

The Mexican Revolution, also known as the Mexican Civil War, was a major armed struggle, lasting roughly from 1910 to 1920, that radically transformed Mexican culture and government. Although recent research has focused on local and regional aspects of the Revolution, it was a genuinely national revolution. Its outbreak in 1910 resulted from the failure of the 35-year-long regime of Porfirio Díaz to find a managed solution to the presidential succession. This meant there was a political crisis among competing elites and the opportunity for agrarian insurrection. Wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero challenged Díaz in the 1910 presidential election, and following the rigged results, revolted under the Plan of San Luis Potosí. Armed conflict ousted Díaz from power; a new election was held in 1911, bringing Madero to the presidency.

David Alfaro Siqueiros Mexican painter

David Alfaro Siqueiros was a Mexican social realist painter, better known for his large murals in fresco. Along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, he established "Mexican Muralism." He was a Stalinist in support of the Soviet Union and a member of the Mexican Communist Party who led an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky in May 1940.

Rufino Tamayo Mexican painter, printmaker, and sculptor

Rufino del Carmen Arellanes Tamayo was a Mexican painter of Zapotec heritage, born in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. Tamayo was active in the mid-20th century in Mexico and New York, painting figurative abstraction with surrealist influences.

Mural "Omnisciencia", 1925 Orozco Mural Omniciencia 1925 Azulejos.jpg
Mural "Omnisciencia", 1925

Between 1922–1924, Orozco painted the murals: "Maternity", "Man in Battle Against Nature", "Christ Destroys His Cross", "Destruction of the Old Order", "The Aristocrats", and "The Trench and the Trinity" at the National Preparatory School. Some of the murals were destroyed by Orozco himself, and later repainted. Others were vandalized by conservative students and practically destroyed. Thus, Orozco had to repaint many of them when he came back to the School in 1926. 1925, he painted the mural "Omniscience" at Mexico City's House of Tiles. In 1926, he painted a mural at the Industrial School in Orizaba, Veracruz.

Omniscience knowing, or capacity to know, everything that there is to know

Omniscience is the capacity to know everything. In monotheistic religions, such as Sikhism and the Abrahamic religions, this is an attribute of God. In some other religions that do not include a supreme deity, such as Buddhism and Jainism, omniscience is an attribute that any individual can eventually attain.

Mexico City Capital in Mexico

Mexico City, or the City of Mexico, is the capital of Mexico and the most populous city in North America. Mexico City is one of the most important cultural and financial centres in the Americas. It is located in the Valley of Mexico, a large valley in the high plateaus in the center of Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 meters (7,350 ft). The city has 16 boroughs.

Veracruz State of Mexico

Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is Xalapa-Enríquez.

A painting of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Jalisco Governmental Palace, Guadalajara. Hidalgo de Jose Clemente Orozco.JPG
A painting of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Jalisco Governmental Palace, Guadalajara.

Between 1927–1934 Orozco lived in the USA. Even after the fall of the stock market in 1929, his works were still in demand. From March to June 1930, at the invitation of the Pomona College Art Department, he painted what he noted was the "first fresco painted outside the country by a painter of the Contemporary Mexican School." [8] The fresco, Prometheus (Prometeo del Pomona College), on the wall of a Pomona College dining hall, was direct and personal at a time when murals were expected to be decorous and decorative, and has been called the first "modern" fresco in the United States. [9] Later that year, he painted murals at the New School for Social Research, New York City, now known as the New School University. One of his most famous murals is The Epic of American Civilization at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA. It was painted between 1932 and 1934 and covers almost 300 m² (3200 square feet) in 24 panels. Its parts include: "Migrations", "Human Sacrifices", "The Appearance of Quetzalcoatl", "Corn Culture", "Anglo-America", "Hispano-America", "Science" and "Modern Migration of the Spirit" (another version of "Christ Destroys His Cross").

Pomona College private liberal arts college in Claremont, California, USA

Pomona College is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational liberal arts college in Claremont, California, United States, often referred to as the premier liberal arts college on the West Coast. It was founded in 1887 by a group of Congregationalists who wanted to recreate a "college of the New England type" in Southern California, and in the 1920s, it became the founding member of the Claremont Colleges consortium.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Dartmouth College private liberal arts university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States

Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States. Established in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock, it is the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. Although founded as a school to educate Native Americans in Christian theology and the English way of life, Dartmouth primarily trained Congregationalist ministers throughout its early history. The university gradually secularized, and by the turn of the 20th century it had risen from relative obscurity into national prominence as one of the top centers of higher education.

After returning to Mexico in 1935, Orozco painted in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the mural "The People and Its Leaders" in the Government Palace, and the frescos for the Hospicio Cabañas, which are considered his masterpiece. In 1940 he painted at the Gabino Ortiz Library in Jiquilpan, Michoacán. Between 1942–1944 Orozco painted for the Hospital de Jesús in Mexico City. Orozco's 1948 "Juárez Reborn" huge portrait-mural was one of his last works. [2]

In 1947, Orozco illustrated the book The Pearl , by John Steinbeck.

Orozco died in 1949 in Mexico City.

Dartmouth Mural

Orozco painted his fresco, The Epic of American Civilization, in the lower level of Dartmouth College's Baker Memorial Library.

Escuela Nacional Preparatoria

History and overview

José Clemente Orozco's mural series in the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria at San Ildefonso College spans three floors of the building and includes multiple other murals in the stairway, all of which depict his critical view of the Revolution. The Escuela Nacional Preparatoria commissioned him in February 1923; however, his earlier panels created serious political conflict, causing him to cease his work, like Siqueiros'. [10] He later returned to finish the work he began under a new wave of social change in 1926. [11]

First floor murals

The Trench at San Ildefonso College LaTrincheraOrozcoSICDF.JPG
The Trench at San Ildefonso College

On the first floor of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria are a series of murals including, The Trench, The Destruction of the Old Order, Maternity, The Strike, The Trinity, and The Banquet of the Rich. The first image is "located under the central arch of the ground floor of the north wall and is the only wall section perfectly framed by the colonnade from the vantage point of the center of the courtyard" and is called The Trench. A unique aspect of the first floor murals is that each mural parallels in width to the arched openings of the colonnade. The Destruction of the Old Order and Maternity are located to the right of The Trench. To the left of The Trench are The Strike, The Trinity, and at the intersection of the west corridor is The Banquet of the Rich. [12] Among the murals that Orozco destroyed are, The Elements, Man Struggling Against Nature, Man Falling, and Christ Destroying His Cross. [12] An interesting element of the destroyed mural Christ Destroying His Cross, of which Orozco only kept Christ's head, is that he reverted to the use of Christian iconography: Christ is destroying his cross in agony over its misuse as a symbol. [13]

The Trench is described as a "confirmation of what an extraordinary and powerful painter Orozco would turn out to be" [14] and is compared to the mural The Farewell, "where the initial impression is of a bloody action scene of great melodrama." [12] He uses jarring muted tones of a darker palette, which matches the dark theme portrayed. Orozco promotes a dignified view of death, as the viewer sees three men sacrificing themselves. Two of the men appear to have died, even though no wounds are present on their bodies, and a third is kneeling while covering his face with his left arm. [12] Their faces are hidden, which gives the viewer a sense of anonymity behind the sacrifice of the many victims of the revolution. This poses the question, is the sacrifice of many worth anything? It makes their anonymous identity more powerful than if they had recognizable identities, because they now represent the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of men who fought and died for the same reason. [12] There is also a component of Christian iconography in this mural, as the central man leans spread eagle against a barricade of rocks and beams that resemble a cross, [15] which contributes to the mural's balance but not in a symmetrical way. This is an allusion to the crucifix, with the central soldier playing the role of the martyr, which is further exemplified by his lack weapons. [12] Analysis of this mural and many other murals by Orozco about the Mexican Revolution is summed up by a statement by Antonio Rodríguez, which states "Orozco showed its...tragedy." [11]

The Trinity is a negative image of the revolution in which a revolutionary leader is the central figure in the mural, "blinded by the red Jacobian hat of the revolution" and threatening the very people he is supposed to be fighting for. [14] The peasant on the right is on his knees begging for mercy while the peasant on the left, whose hands have been severed from the wrist down, watches. This displays the situation of the working class, who have been recruited to fight and do not know who they are fighting or why they are fighting at all.

The Banquet of the Rich displays Orozco's caricature style. It is a depiction of social criticism through the use of satire. [16] In this mural, the viewer sees a depiction of the rich, whose faces and bodies are obviously distorted, which is meant "to represent their decadence and abuses of power" and the working class. It is meant to portray the situation of the working class as oppressed by the rich and in a state of war with one another. This point is further exemplified by the view of the rich who can look down on the working class and continue to live a life of decadence without consequences. This displays the workers as completely blind to their situation by acting as gladiators for the entertainment of the rich. Tools held by the working class individuals in this murals are being used as weapons, which shows "the workers are turning the objects of their livelihood against themselves, have not acquired real weapons and are caught up in confusion about what people and things are really for, treating comrades like enemies." [12] While this mural is not aesthetically pleasing, with its repulsive distorted characters, it evokes thought within the spectator about their personal situation as a member of the working class or of the privileged bourgeois. [14]

Second floor murals

The second story of murals by Orozco in the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, which were painted in 1923-4, includes the murals Law and Justice, Jehovah Between the Rich and the Poor, Liberty, Garbage, and The Rich, which are listed in order from left to right. [12]

Third floor murals

The third story, created between 1924-6, includes the murals, Women, The Grave Digger, The Blessing, The Workers, The Farewell, The Family, and The Revolutionaries. [12]

The Farewell is grandiose in scale and displays the final moments before the sacrifice of the Revolution. The landscape is somber, as is the expression behind the leftward earthbound woman, who appears to be the man's mother or grandmother. There are three pairs present in this mural: the leftward couple of the elderly woman and the man who kisses her hand, another couple locked in a final embrace, and a third one of two stooping men. The rhythmic pairing suggests a shared identity of the men who are leaving to fight the Revolution. "What this treatment does to history, to real events such as departing to fight a revolution, is to turn it into a natural (that is, of nature), inevitable, and timeless event, or not an event at all but a condition about which humans can do nothing to change since the condition is made of them and vice versa." [12]

Stairway murals

Mural in the San Ildefonso College StairwellOrozcoSICDF.JPG
Mural in the San Ildefonso College

Additional murals, completed by Orozco in 1924-6, are "painted on the walls and rising overheads of the ground floor," including Aboriginal Races, Franciscans Helping the Sick, The Youth and Cortés and Malinche. The Drinking Men and The Engineers encase the stairway on the east wall of the courtyard. [12] Cortés and Malinche is a dignified view of the creation of the first mestizo, [11] a result of the Spanish colonialism in Mexico. "This union between the Spanish European conquistador and his female Indian mistress was an incontestable historical fact" [14] and is demonstrated as the two bodies join into one. [12] Their bodies are Michelangelo-like as they represent the "Old World man and a New World woman." Orozoco works to represent the inequities present between this relationship by portraying Cortés' gestures as domineering and Malinche's as subordinate. [11] Cortés' gesture of placing his arm across Malinche's torso, "both prevents an act of supplication for the Indian on Malinche's part and acts as a final separation from her former life." This image serves as a synthesis of the Spanish colonization of Mexico, the critical role Malinche played, and the beginning of the mestizo in Mexican history. [14]


"¡Orozco!" by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Institute of Fine Arts, Mexico at The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1980

Selected artworks

Jose Clemente Orozco Tomb JoseClementeOrozcotombDoloresDF.JPG
José Clemente Orozco Tomb

See also

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  3. The Art Book. Phaidon. p. 345.|access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. "José Clemente Orozco Biography - Painter, Illustrator (1883–1949)". A&E Television Networks. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  5. Orozco, José Clemente (1962). José Clemente Orozco: An Autobiography. University of Texas Press. p. 41. The truth of the matter is that I lost my hand when a child, playing with powder: it was an accident in no way out of the ordinary.
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  7. "The Communist and the Conservative". The Attic. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
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Further reading