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José Guadalupe Posada prints, 1880-1943

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Finding aid for the José Guadalupe Posada prints, 1880-1943

Biographical Historical Note

José Guadalupe Posada was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico in 1852 and died in Mexico City in 1913. His life span thus encompasses the last half century of the Mexican struggle for independence from colonial powers and the establishment of a liberal government that would sign a democratic Constitution in 1917. It is frequently observed that Posada's work expresses the hopes and fears of the Mexican people during this time of social upheaval, and that Posada's work, prolific, widely disseminated and extremely popular, helped to educate a largely non-literate population about the urgent political issues of the day.

To a great extent a self-taught artist, Posada apprenticed, when he was not quite twenty years old, in the lithographic printing shop of Trinidad Pedrozo in Aguascalientes, where he illustrated the independent newspaper El Jicote. Forced to leave Aguascalientes for political reasons, Pedrozo and Posada went to León, where in 1876 Posada was put in charge of the printmaking shop and in 1884 given a position teaching lithography at a secondary school.

In 1888 Posada moved to Mexico City, where he worked for various newspapers, including La Patria Ilustrada. In 1890, Posada joined the staff of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo's publishing house, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. Before moving to Mexico City, Posada had produced woodcuts or lithographs, but now he began engraving on type metal and, after 1900, turned to relief etching on zinc. Working for Arroyo and other publishers as well, Posada produced prints for newspapers, broadsides, and chapbooks on a wide range of topics, including fortune-telling, pet care, love, crime, miracles, and politics. Most of these were printed on brightly colored paper and sold by strolling vendors throughout the country. It is estimated that in his forty year career, Posada produced over 20,000 engravings.

When they were very young, Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco visited Posada in his workshop and deeply admired him. Later Posada served as a model for the Mexican muralists and other artists, who emulated his use of an indigenous Mexican style, commitment to a populist art form, and explicit political content. In 1920, Jean Charlot, a French artist collaborating on a mural with Rivera, was intrigued by the broadsides sold on the streets that still bore Posada's prints. He was the first to publish articles about Posada's work, theorizing its relevance for Mexican modernists. Since then, a quantity of critical writings have proclaimed Posada Mexico's greatest printmaker.




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