February 02, 1853. José Guadalupe Posada (February 2, 1853 - January 20, 1913) 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. In this image: José Guadalupe Posada, Calavera de la Catrina (Skull of the Female Dandy), from the portfolio 36 Grabados: José Guadalupe Posada, published by Arsacio Vanegas, Mexico City, Mexico, c. 1910, printed 1943, photo-relief etching with engraving, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the friends of Freda Radoff.
Deriving from the Spanish word for ‘skulls’, these
calaveras were illustrations featuring skeletons which would, after Posada’s death, become closely associated with the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Most of these calaveras were published by the press of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo which produced inexpensive literature for the lower classes, including thousands of satirical broadsides which Posada illustrated. Through this focus on mortality Vanegas Arroyo and Posada satirized many poignant issues of the day, in particular the details of bourgeois life and the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. On January 20th 1913, 3 years after the start of the Mexican Revolution, José Guadalupe Posada died at his home in obscurity. He was penniless and buried in an unmarked grave. It was only years later in the 1920s that his work became recognized on a national and international level after it was championed by the French ex-patriot artist Jean Charlot who described Posada as “printmaker to the Mexican people”.
Largely forgotten by the end of his life, Posada's engravings were brought to a wider audience in the 1920s by the French artist Jean Charlot, who encountered them while visiting Diego Rivera.
While Posada died in poverty, his images are well known today as examples of folk art. The muralist José Clemente Orozco knew Posada when he was young, and would look at him work through a window on the way to school, and credited Posada's work as an influence on his own.