José Clemente Orozco

Today we celebrate the birthday of José Clemente Orozco, one of “Los tres grandes” (The three greats) Mexican muralists!

Soldiers, 1926 José Clemente Orozco
“Soldiers, 1926” / Image @ WikiArt

Born in 1883 in Zapotlán (now Ciudad Guzmán), Orozco had his first experiences with drawing, watching the cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada at an early age.

It was also as a cartoonist that he began his artistic career working for various papers years later.

From 1906 to 1914 he studied at the San Carlos Academy, where he was encouraged by one of the teachers to introduce Mexican landscapes and vibrant colours into his work.

After the Mexican Revolution, the government commissions a number of artists to paint a new vision for the country. Part of these commissions were big murals that would inspire nationalist ideas showing a Mexican identity.

Along with Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros – “Los tres grandes” – created murals for government buildings, schools, hospitals in different parts of the country.

Zapatistas Marching, 1931 José Clemente Orozco
“Zapatistas Marching, 1931” / Image @ WikiArt

The Cabañas Hospice murals

One of the most important and impressive works of José Clemente Orozco’s are the “frescos” painted in the Chapel of the Cabañas Hospice – today Instituto Cultural Cabañas – in 1938-39. It shows a mix of scenes from the Precolumbian era, the Spanish conquest, the industrial and contemporary man, in vibrant and expressive colours

All images “Hombre del fuego por Jose Clemente Orozco” by nullboy is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Works in the US

During his life Orozco lived in the US a couple of times and created great works in a number of places.

  • “The epic of the American civilization”, 1932-34 in the Baker Library – Dartmouth College, NH depicts the history of the American continent in a mesmerizing combination of life cycles in massive panels. 
The epic of American civilization, 1932-34 José Clemente Orozco
Image @ WikiArt
  • “The table of universal brotherhood”, 1931 at The New School in New York City is part of a series of four murals in the “Orozco Room”. 
The table of universal brotherhood, 1931 José Clemente Orozco
Image @ WikiArt
  • “Prometheus”, 1930 at Pomona College, CA. Representing wisdom and enlightenment, Orozco brings this mythological figure to the modern times with his expressive style.
Prometheus, 1930 José Clemente Orozco
Image @ WikiArt

If like me, you are not in Mexico today, celebrate José Clemente Orozco with this virtual tour or check this quick documentary to know more about his life and work!

P.s.: If you want to know more about the Mexican muralists, the Whitney Museum (US) is showing the exhibition “Vida Americana, Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945” and their website has many great resources you can explore!

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