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José Guadalupe Posada, contemporary and universal artist

Today we remember José Guadalupe Posada on the day of his birth.

• The Mexican engraver, who died on January 20, 1913, became famous for his lithographs with death scenes, popular prints and social caricatures

Painter and caricaturist, José Guadalupe Posada is internationally recognized for La Catrina, and he became famous for his lithographs with death scenes, popular prints and social caricatures, inspired by the Mexican society of the last century.

On January 20, 1913, the Aguacalientes engraver and printer José Guadalupe Posada died, whom the poet Octavio Paz considered “not a 19th century artist: like Alfred Jarry, he is our contemporary. He will also be the contemporary of our grandchildren.”

“At the end of the 19th century, a great artist emerged: José Guadalupe Posada,” said the author of The Labyrinth of Solitude, who throughout his life wrote great praise for the work of the Mexican engraver born in Aguascalientes on February 2, 1852.

André Bretón in the prologue of his Anthology of Black Humor says that “the triumph of humor in its pure and complete state, in the domain of plastic art, must be placed on a date close to us and recognize the Mexican artist as its first and brilliant artisan. Jose Guadalupe Posada".

Paz observes that the French poet does not hesitate to compare Posada's black and white engravings with certain surrealist works, especially the collages of Marx Ernst. With Posada not only does humor begin in the modern plastic arts, but also the Mexican pictorial movement.

Although he died in 1913, Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco considered him, in addition to a precursor, a contemporary of theirs. They were right. I will dare to say that even Posada seems more modern than them to me,” Paz commented.

Paz gives as an example of Posada's universality the famous Catrina, who is not only a satirical image of the elegant ladies of his time; It is a poetic image, an emblem in which luxury is allied to death: feathers, silks and bones. It is fashion, but seen from the perspective of a Leopardi: fashion is the sister of death.

Octavio Paz assured that Posada's themes are those of daily life; His way of treating them goes beyond them, gives them another dimension. Better said, he opens them to another dimension. They are not illustrations of this or that event that happened, but of the human condition.

Posada began engraving at the age of 16 in Trinidad Pedroso's workshop, after overcoming family quarrels about his artistic future. With Pedroso he learned the secrets of a trade as old as it was complicated. The results are visible to all.

The caricature was a personal and natural decision, so his boss introduced him to the world of journalism and the graphic press. In El Jicote, which dates back to 1871, his first works in this sense appeared.

At that time, family was everything and like many others, Posada's was worried about the destiny chosen by José Guadalupe, who to calm things down got a position as a lithography teacher at the preparatory school in León, Guanajuato. where he taught for five years. This did not prevent him from devoting himself to his taste for advertisements, commercials and printing religious images.

In 1888, due to the floods in León, he returned to Mexico City, where he received several job offers. Here it can be said that his career took off, since he created hundreds of engravings for the newspapers La Patria Ilustrada, Revista de México, El Ahuizote, Nuevo Siglo, Gil Blas, El Hijo del Ahuizote and others.

Along with his prestige as an artist, his purchasing power and desire for experimentation grew, by using zinc, lead or steel plates in his engravings.

To talk about Posada is to refer to an important part of the history of Mexican art of the 19th and 20th centuries, hence his influence is undeniable on the generations after him, even in this 21st century.

In 1933, two decades after his death, the person who rediscovered him was Jean Charlot, who edited his plates and revealed Posada's influence on artists of later generations.


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